By Nick Diamantides
Republican Martha Flores-Gibson hopes to replace incumbent Bonnie Lowenthal as representative for California’s 54th Assembly District. Flores-Gibson said the state’s ongoing economic crisis is what motivated her to enter the political arena.
“According to a recent survey, 81 percent of the citizens in the 54th District know that our economy is going in the wrong direction, and they are very scared,” she said. “The bottom line is that we need to grow our economy and we need jobs.”
Flores-Gibson explained that cutting the state payroll tax will be one of her top priorities if she is elected. “Cutting that tax will enable businesses to hire at least one more person, maybe two,” she said. “Think of how many jobs would be created if every business in the state hired just one more person.” She added that many companies, stores and restaurants in the 54th District that could make a marginal profit during this time of economic downturn are forced to go out of business because of what she called the exorbitant state payroll tax.
“You can drive all around Long Beach and San Pedro and see the closed doors of hundreds of businesses that might have survived if not for the taxes and fees they had to pay to our inefficiently run state government,” she said. “Those closed businesses have resulted in a very high unemployment rate throughout the district.”
Making matters worse, according to Flores-Gibson, even successful large manufacturers like Boeing are moving jobs out of California because of the payroll tax and other burdensome taxes and fees imposed by state and local governments. “Nobody even asked Boeing why just this month alone it moved 500 local jobs to Oklahoma,” she said, adding that as a legislator she would have met with Boeing officials to ask if there was something that the state could do to keep those jobs here. “The payroll tax, the fees, the amount of paperwork that needs to be done and all the other forms of red tape are driving jobs out of California,” she said.
Flores-Gibson added that the state’s workers compensation system also needs to be revamped. She said that, if she is elected, she will conduct a symposium on workers comp fraud and inefficiency to see how the state can reduce the amount of money employers have to pay for that insurance in California. She also wants to extend it beyond the two-year limit so that injured workers have adequate time to recover.
“The problem is that Governor Schwarzenegger cut back on the amount of time that someone can collect on workers comp,” she said, explaining that the cutback amounted to little more than a shell game, because while the state’s workers comp costs have decreased, welfare costs have increased. “The governor cut workers comp payments to two years, but the problem is that some conditions last more than two years, so the injured employees who still cannot work because of their injuries must then go on welfare. So the state’s welfare costs increase. We need an audit to see how much money is being spent on welfare payments for those who are no longer able to collect workers comp payments.”
Flores-Gibson also strongly condemned the way the legislature, with Lowenthal’s approval, chose to balance the budget last year. “In July 2009, my opponent voted to take $3.5 billion from local governments and school districts,” Flores-Gibson said. “Stripping local governments and school districts of money from their budgets, after many of them already forced employees into early retirement, cut back positions and dipped into reserves, is just plain irresponsible and doesn’t hold Sacramento accountable for its years of reckless spending.”
Making matters worse, according to Flores-Gibson, Lowenthal and a majority of state legislators also voted to raise taxes in 2009. “We were told that higher taxes would keep teachers and firefighters working– it did not,” she said. “And, because of higher taxes, more businesses are leaving the state and our unemployment rate is higher.”
According to Flores-Gibson, of the aforementioned $3.5 billion, $1.7 billion came from state funds that would normally have gone to school districts. “How can my opponent say now that she cares about our schools when she votes to take so much money away from them, including $176 million from the Long Beach Unified School District?” Flores-Gibson asked.
She said that, if she is elected, one of her first actions will be to introduce a bill that will bring back the $3.5 billion taken from the local governments and school districts. “I will also demand thorough audits of every state agency, department and commission to eliminate unnecessary entities, stop fraud and increase inefficiency,” she said. “We cannot afford two more years of business as usual in Sacramento.”
Flores-Gibson earned a master’s degree in social work from Cal State University Long Beach and worked for the LBUSD for 20 years, mostly as a social worker, until budget cuts forced her layoff last March. The layoff gave her more time for a business she started two years ago, selling prepaid legal services. “I am not a polished career politician, but I do have the welfare of the people of the 54th District at heart,” she said. “By electing me, the people of the 54th Assembly District will be sending a clear message to Sacramento– we need to change the way our state government operates.”