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Q & A: Ted Gaines talks raises, budget and arena

By: Interview Jenifer Gee Journal editor
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Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, stopped by the Journal office this week to talk about his role representing the sprawling 1st District, which spans from the Oregon border to Mammoth Lake and includes Placer County. Gaines is also co-chairman of the Think BIG regional committee, formed to look at ways to build a new arena in Sacramento. Q: What issues are your constituents most concerned about? A: They’re very concerned about the economy and jobs. They’re looking for some relief. It’s very tough for small businesses to run in this economy. There are waves of (Americans with Disabilities Act) lawsuits in their communities. There are attempts to reform that with legislation but it’s very difficult to do. People are also concerned with benefits paid to illegal aliens in the state of California. There is a whole issue with the Dream Act. My constituents are struggling to get their kids through school and then seen grant money going to kids here illegally. Q: What needs to happen to get our state on the path toward being fiscally sound? A: We need to balance our budget. I’ve been in the legislature for five years and haven’t voted for a budget because none are balanced. The LAO (Legislative Analyst’s Office) was telling us additional revenue was coming in. We warned against that and said don’t spend money we don’t have, let’s be conservative and pull back. Now we’re on track for a $4.5 billion deficit. We need to look at redefining the role of government in California. We’ve been in the role of expansion the last several decades and I’m not sure we’re in a position now to finance it. Q: The State Senate was recently scrutinized for giving pay raises to staff. Have you given out a raise? A: Yes, I gave one to one employee whose job definition changed. We gave a 5 percent raise. They were handling legislation for me in a lesser capacity on the assembly side. Now they’re a legislative director. It’s an extra $150-$200 a month. I also gave a raise to an employee in my business. I gave a bonus in the toughest economy since the Great Depression. I try to reward people that perform well in my office. I do it in the private sector, too. In regard to his state employee, Gaines said it was an “isolated situation” from other raises given to Senate staff. It’s one employee on the lower end of the pay spectrum. We’re very careful with our budget. I have one of the smallest budgets in the senate. Q: Now that it looks like the NBA lockout is coming to an end, how will this impact plans for a new arena in Sacramento? A: I think it’s great news for the arena. It adds momentum. People will be employed in the region. I’ve always supported the (Sacramento) Kings and I think it adds to the community’s pride to have a professional sports team in the region. I hope to be successful in getting a new arena built but I want to be careful in how the arena will be built. My constituents will not pay any taxes for the arena. If that’s proposed, I would not support the arena. Q: How will the arena be paid for then? A: There’s talk of privatizing parking. Also, businesses within the arena’s area will pay a voluntary tax. It will be a voluntary vote for an additional tax for businesses to get business coming their way. The vote will not go to the people. The next step is with the (Sacramento) City Council to make a decision if they move forward or not. Another element to that is an AEG proposal to manage the arena and put capital into construction of the arena. I think this is an opportunity for the city of Sacramento. If it’s managed in the right way, it could be revenue for the city. Q: How will you spend the holidays? A: We’re going to stick close to home. Probably have Christmas at my parent’s house in Sacramento and enjoy time together as a family. Maybe try to do some skiing. I skied last week at Northstar and it was surprisingly good given how early in the season it is. Q: Anything else you’d like to add? A: I’ve held over 20 community coffees and town halls in the last three months. I do a lot of traveling to stay in touch with my constituents. I listen to my constituents to hear what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. They provide a lot of strength to me. I’m pretty common-sense-oriented and so are my constituents. There’s a lack of common sense in the state capitol. (Constituents) sustain me when things get bizarre over there. I also think we need to focus on job creation through regulatory reform and help new and existing businesses more easily operate. There also needs to be more authority at the local level. -------------- Did you know? State Sen. Ted Gaines is in favor of part-time legislators. “I would just as soon work at my business and focus on my legislative duties on a part-time basis,” Gaines said this week. Gaines, who owns an insurance business in Sacramento, cited Texas and Nevada legislatures that meet once every two years. He said he’d also be in favor of meeting annually for 45 days at the beginning of the year. The senator for District 1 said there would have to be legislative oversight of bureaucracies if there were a part-time legislature.