California State Treasurer and 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Chiang came to UC Berkeley on Monday evening to speak on his vision for California’s future.
The event, hosted in partnership by the Berkeley Forum and the Goldman School of Public Policy, was titled “The Power of Public Investment: Improving Our Economy, Our Climate, and Our Future” and addressed issues ranging from the state’s housing crisis to its failing infrastructure. Chiang emphasized fiscal responsibility and community action as key to ensuring California’s success.
“We have bountiful opportunities if we can learn to live together, work together, play together,” Chiang said at the event.
Chiang called his No. 1 priority solving the state’s housing crisis. According to Chiang, the state’s lack of housing contributes to increased tuition and compromises tax revenue because “people (are) leaving here in droves.” Chiang called for the creation of redevelopment agencies — government bodies that use incentives such as tax credits to repurpose land for housing — and for the rewriting of housing codes to encourage construction of affordable housing units.
Chiang’s attention to specific policy impressed Ken Lohatepanont, a campus freshman who attended the event.
“I think too often on the Democratic side … we have good ideas and big visions, (but) there isn’t a clear plan of how to pay,” Lohatepanont said. “(Chiang) emphasized a clear-cut plan on how to pay for the plans he wants to implement.”
Education was another priority that Chiang emphasized during his speech. Chiang expressed his hope that by investing in K-12 education, California could break cycles of poverty and reduce incarceration rates.
“If (you’re) investing in higher education, (you’re) too late,” Chiang said during the event. “If you want to keep someone out of incarceration, you need to invest in early childhood education.”
Chiang went on to criticize other aspects of state prisons, namely overcrowding and recidivism.
With regards to necessary improvements to higher education, Chiang called current state tuition costs “not sustainable for California.” Chiang did not detail a specific timeline for reducing tuition costs, citing uncertainty about potential cuts by the federal government. He affirmed his support for SB 674, which, if passed, would set aside $25 million to help students refinance loans to reduce the burden of higher education.
In response to questions about California’s infrastructure, Chiang said, “I’m terrified.”
Chiang called for an inventory of the state’s assets and criticized the federal government for inadequate funding of state infrastructure.
Scott Strgacich, a campus senior who attended the event, said he admired Chiang’s emphasis on policy but added that he felt Chiang could have expanded on his opposition to the Trump administration.
“I would have liked to hear more about how he will secure California against the present administration in Washington,” Strgacich said.
Despite the depth and diversity of the issues he examined during the hour and a half that he spoke, Chiang remained optimistic about the state’s future.
“I think we portend the best economic opportunities in the 21st century,” Chiang said at the event.