Last Wednesday night the Bedrosian Center had the privilege of hosting
Legislative Representative and California’s Assembly Speaker, John Pérez. I regret to admit that being a native San Diegan and only having lived in Los Angeles for the past year, I had only scraped the Wikipedia surface of Pérez’s accomplishments in California but walking away from this discussion I was floored by the vigor, tenacity and raw passion for legislating the Pérez brought to the table.
The event kicked off with a brief introduction from Price School Dean Jack Knott. In this brief vignette Dean Knott highlighted some of Speaker Pérez’s more fantastic achievements such as creating thousands of high quality jobs throughout the state, leading the charge for the implementation of The Affordable Care Act, and being the first openly gay Assembly Speaker as well as an international LGBT activist and advocate for those with HIV/AIDS. As Pérez began speaking to Dr. Raphael Bostic, the event moderator and our Bedrosian Center Director, it was clear that these accomplishments are just a drop in his proverbial legislative bucket and that financial progress is the trait he truly values in terms of his contributions to California.
He discussed legislative structural changes such as the switch to a simple majority requirement in 2010, which has led to the passage of three on time balanced budgets in a row, for the first time in 30 years in California and the need to further this financial responsibility and efficiency. Pérez expressed a strong sense of responsibility to act as a fiduciary for the state especially during the recession when California came within inches of insolvency several times. He acknowledged that perhaps the hardest part of being a legislator “was making decisions that he didn’t want to make” and driving new results from conflict such as his California Jobs Budget plan which minimized budget outlays while preserving as many jobs as possible during the recession.
Pérez has a boundless energy for new policy issues and problems, when asked about his point of view on the next of “big” issue of focus he responded with the somewhat cryptic, “Nothing is ever done… the most important thing is to continue moving forward on stabilizing the economy and finances of the state. We have completely eliminated the structural deficit, established a small reserve, and are recovering faster than 44 other states… but part of that recovery is fed by short term taxes.” Speaker Pérez cautioned against confusing short term and one-time revenues with long-term progress and growth and discussed plans for better long-term reserve and debt planning.
Near the end of Dr. Bostic’s questions Speaker Pérez asserted that California itself and leading from the West is different than perhaps any other US governance format because it is so open to unprecedented and underutilized policy solutions and so geared towards future growth. “We are uniquely positioned for the Pacific Rim, and when you look at future economic growth globally, so much of it is centered around the Pacific Rim.” In summary, Speaker Pérez’s no-nonsense approach to fiscal responsibility, fiduciary duty and sustainable economic growth gave the Bedrosian Center some clear new directives on leading from the West and governance as a way of life and thought. When asked about how he felt about terming out of the Assembly he replied, “Look, I love being a legislator,” and that much was clear from his inception in Sacramento, yet despite all of his failed bills, legislative missions and policy directives over the years he has maintained a staunch passion and energy for tackling new issues and maintained an ongoing vigor to keep serving those populations which he has also so passionately advocated on behalf of.