By Mary O’KEEFE
The new year will see a large class of freshman legislature filling the seats in Sacramento. In the November election, the Democrats attained a two-thirds majority in both the senate and the assembly and Assemblymember Mike Gatto is ready to get back to the Sacramento.
“It will be really interesting,” he said of the new legislative make up.
Gatto added the legislature would be looking into the economy, which is foremost on everyone’s mind.
“The economy is starting to pick up, but we don’t want to make the same mistakes as the past,” he said.
During his campaign, Gatto said he would like to look into the tax code. He has yet to decide what legislation he would propose but said it has to be something bold.
“I don’t want it to be something halfway,” he said.
Gatto hopes the new freshman legislature will be able to work together in a bipartisan way. He added there is a deep gully between the two parties but he is “cautiously optimistic” that they can work together.
“I do see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said concerning the economy.
But for the economy to become stronger, things do have to change.
“We do need to change the status quo,” he said.
Change is not easy for Sacramento, especially when looking at the tax code.
“People are hesitant to embrace a change,” Gatto said. “If we did something bold like get away from income tax in California and change to a tax code [that would be] more fee-based system.”
He pointed out that Texas and Nevada do not have state income tax. Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming are also without state income tax as well, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Gatto is not certain if California would ever be able to follow those states with their tax codes but said, “It would be intriguing.”
He also wants to look into other issues that are inspired by communities. The new Crescenta Valley Dog Park has made him question why other areas, like Glendale, do not have a dog park. He found that many times it comes down to an issue of insurance.
He also wants to look into proposing an insurance pool that would allow cities to work together.
New technology is another area Gatto feels is important to include not only in a new economy but also in taking advantage of technology that can help the state.
“There are balloons that have smoke sensors on them that spot forest fires instantly. I would like to do a pilot program in our district [on that],” said Gatto, whose district includes part of the Angeles National Forest.
This would be a modern day version of the fire lookout towers. The balloon would be a permanent fixture floating above the forest floor.
Education budgets and programs are other areas the legislation will have to be dealt with this year. Gatto said that budgets and programs like career technical schools at junior colleges would be a priority.
It is not unusual that California has a lot of issues that will have to be dealt with when legislators return to work after the holidays. Gatto said he is ready to face the challenges and encourages the community to contact his office with any concerns or suggestions.
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Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood.