California Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Orange County) emphasized the importance of pension and welfare reform when examining a way to fix the state budget and better fund education.
During a forum held at Orange Coast College Thursday, the Orange Coast College alumnus and former Costa Mesa mayor, addressed education cuts and other issues with an audience of about 40 students, faculty and community members concerned with the state’s education system.
The panel of speakers included Jim Moreno, president of the Coast Community College district’s board of trustees, Dennis Harkins, president of OCC, OCC student delegate Yasmine El-Gabry and Golden West College student Dale Lendrum.
“Every dollar we spend on pensions is another dollar we don’t spend on education,” Mansoor said. “We are at our bond debt limit. We cannot borrow any more money and we are spending $2 million from the general fund on public employee pensions.”
Mansoor said he aims to better fund education through Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension reform proposal, which will raise the retirement age for public employees from 55 to 67, he said.
“The Republicans are on record supporting the proposal but the Democrats don’t support their own governor’s proposal. There would be a ton of money put toward education if we could put the welfare and pension reforms forward,” Mansoor said.
California has 12 percent of the population of the country, yet more than 30 percent of the country’s welfare recipients, Mansoor said.
“We can’t just keep raising taxes. We need true reform and I think that welfare needs to be one of the areas that has reform,” Mansoor said.
Vickie Hay, OCC CalWORKS coordinator, disagreed with Mansoor, and said she has witnessed success stories that would not exist without welfare assistance.
“It’s a misconception that people on welfare are manipulating the system. That is not the reality. Since the recession we have seen more and more families who were middle class and cannot find work now. Instead of working a minimum wage job with no hope, people on welfare can attend college and get retrained so they can find work,” Hay said.
According to Hay, Mansoor stands alone when it comes to Brown’s proposal.
“Assembly member Mansoor is the only member of the Committee on Health and Human Services that voted to pass Brown’s initiative to slash CalWORKS and childcare,” Hay said.
Aside from welfare and pensions, Mansoor also blames Democrats for the cuts and rise in tuition fees.
“Why did my colleagues across the hall, the Democrats, vote for these budget cuts? We need to ask these questions. They are the ones who put these cuts in place. As a result we saw community college fees rise from $26 to $36 per unit and an additional $10 increase to $46 per unit will be coming this summer,” Mansoor said.
El-Gabry, chair of the advocacy committee, said she was annoyed with Mansoor’s method of redirecting blame to the Democrats.
“It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s a California issue. It bothered me how Mr. Mansoor kept blaming his colleagues across the hall,” El-Gabry said.
El-Gabry said she does not support Mansoor’s plan to reform welfare.
“I don’t agree with slashing welfare to fund education. We’re number one in prison spending, so if he wants to talk about not raising taxes and cutting from somewhere, then that’s another spot that they can cut from,” El-Gabry said.