Issue Position: Q&A - North Bay Leadership Council Questionaire

Issue Position

By:  Tom Lynch
Date: Jan. 1, 2012
Location: Unknown

1. Why are you running for Assembly? What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

Our legislature is fiddling while California burns!

The State of California and most local governments are in flat-out denial, willfully blind, to the extreme threat posed by unfunded public retirement benefits. The longer it takes to reform these benefits and reverse the terrible demise of public services and infrastructure imposed by these debts; the worse it's going to get.

To me this is the issue of the day, the challenge of our generation; we need leadership on this issue. Our elected leaders in Sacramento need to LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY!

As an Assemblyman I would be part of the effort of reinventing government to better serve the needs of All the people. We are long overdue in renegotiating a new social contract. Government is what we do together that we cannot do by ourselves. It is not working. I have been advocating reforms for five years now; and will continue to be a strong advocate of ways to reform the system.

2. What are the top three issues facing the state? What will you do to address them?

-An erosion of essential services government once was able to provide for generations; much of this due to massive unfunded retirement obligations and continuing salary increases. There is an incredible disconnect, a willful blindness, on the part of our managers, electeds and union heads alike as to the problems ahead. The fact is,in private industry salaries and benefits are being cut in order to survive; while in the public sector they are increasing salaries and benefits, through retirement without rehiring, fee increases, and laying off less senior workers.

-A doubling of tuition costs at most Universities and Colleges due to an almost twenty year pension holiday; again due to massive unfunded retirement benefits unlike anything in the private sector or among the trade unions. These increases are being paid by 25 year college loans of up to 6.8% interest creating a generation of indentured debt slaves, due to the utter failure of adequately funding the current benefits.

-Death of a thousand cuts of the economic engine of California. As a former member of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, and an independent businessman for almost thirty years (Tom Lynch Construction), I marvel at how often and to what extent our government can be at cross purposes with itself in trying to achieve economic goals.

3. What assets do you bring to the Assembly? Why should someone vote for you over another candidate?

I would bring to the Assembly the intelligence, courage and vision I have exhibited throughout my thirty plus years living and raising a family in the 2nd Assembly District. This includes environmental activism, work toward social justice, efforts to develop the economy, and the ability to spend thousands of hours going over complex budgets, reviewing fiscal policy issues and working toward finding solutions.

I feel best qualified as the candidate to represent the new 2nd Assembly District as I have a keen understanding of many of the problems we face and what the solutions entail; as well as the ability to learn and change as circumstances dictate. As a project manager, ombudsman--problem solver for many years overseeing sometimes multiple multimillion dollar projects with hundreds of workmen from numerous trades, I feel comfortable going through the learning curve of being an Assemblyman.

Why should someone vote for me?

4. Transportation is one of our top priorities. Do you support:

a. The SMART project?

Yes, but I would be tempted to outsource the administration and staffing if we can't come up with a sustainble system of salaries and benefits.

b. The expansion of Sonoma County Airport?

Yes, I was the chairman of the Sonoma County Planning Commission in 2011, overseeing the EIR and community hearings over the expansion. I voted for the expansion and greatly appreciate the role of air transportation in maintaining and expanding job opportunities thoughout the North Bay.

c. The widening of the Sonoma/Marin Narrows?

Yes, I support widening the Narrows.

d. Funding the maintenance and repair of roads?

Yes, I am working with citizen groups in advocating more resources toward roads and infrastructure, the lifeblood of commerce, through fundamental reforms with local and state government.

5. In your role as an Assembly person, how will you work with business to help create jobs and improve the economy?

Reinventing government will help restore essential services, along with a lot of jobs, lost the last few years. We now have a system that if one were to include the annual increase in unfunded liabilities (principal and interest over the next 20-30 years), plus the annual retirement set aside paid in (up to 50% each $1 in salary); we're looking at benefits that can be $1.50/$1.00 of payroll, or almost 20 times that which most get in the private sector through the employers social security and medicare contribution.

This is a debacle, a disaster, and we are doomed without resolution. It is simply unsustainable and is responsible for huge social consequences.

I think resolution of the above will have very favorable impact on business. Improvements to education will greatly improve the quality of our work force and reduce the associated costs of failure endemic to our society. We need to create a society of self reliant contributors.

Government has to be able to streamline and reduce the cost of doing business in California as well.

6. How would you balance the needs of the economy and the needs of the environment?

It's almost become an Orwellian newspeak mantra to herald the importance of "green jobs"; but we also have to support creation of manufacturing jobs, entreprenuership, education and agriculture. Most jobs in California can be done in an environmentally benign manner reducing damage to the environment, as move across the bridge into more and more beneficial lifestyles.

Perhaps part of the solution is to create more jobs with people working less and living simpler life styles. Instead of the measure of how well a society is doing with the "per capita income" we might try to do as other countries are doing by measuring the "per capita happiness index". If government provided incentives for everyone to work 4 hours less, while employing more of those seeking work, we would have a lot less unemployment.

In construction I see subcontractors having a hard time bringing back workers on unemployment, many of whom are working on the side for cash, making more by working less. Part of renewing the social contract in our society might entail utilizing the skills of those on unemployment with doing work to serve other unfilled needs.

Many recipients of government resources toward housing and income are quite capable of providing services that are needed but not provided. Part of looking after the poor is to provide them with something to do for their assistance. You cannot empower people to look after themselves, by making them dependent on the government.

7. What would you do to stem the increasing amount of taxpayer money needed to pay for state employees' pensions and retirees' health care? What kinds of pension reform do you support?

We need to try to honor the obligations of past service by changing the terms of future service. I know hundreds of people who work for the government and have talked with many who agree.

Retirement benefits (pensions and retiree medical) given for present service must be fully funded the year given, NOT over the next 20 -30 years as with the current system. If you can't pay a benefit the year given, how will you pay it in the future, without suffering a storm surge of wave upon wave of unfunded obligations.

Employers with employees, who are members of trade unions or are non-union alike, are not on the hook for unfunded retirement obligations due to unrealistic target rates of return. Many employers in the private sector as well as some European countries, have reformed unsustainable pension obligations out of economic necessity; why can't we?

Retirement benefits must be significantly restructured for new employees, but it's certain they must be changed for current employees regarding their work in the future. I believe we should honor the commitments made for past work if we can, but today's unfunded liability is the biggest problem. Any solution must address today's unfunded liability.

We're increasingly burdening the next generation, to fund retiring generations that did not fund their own retirements. This is a human rights issue. Like the suffragette movement at the turn of the 20th century, and the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's. It's up to us to protect future generations unable to protect themselves from us!


8. Given the budget crisis and slow economic recovery, what are your plans to reduce the state's spending and match it to existing revenues?

I ran for Sonoma County Supervisor in 2008, at a meeting in an auditorium filled with SEIU workers, I said in order to preserve their jobs we need to freeze salaries and benefits.

In 2010 I ran for State Senate, and said to a room full of union heads, we need to replicate what they're doing in Ireland to survive hard economic times; graduated paycuts based on salaries, and reform of the pension system.

Today in Sonoma County, 4 years later, many in the public sector have seen their compensation (salaries and benefits) increase by up to 20%. While cutting our children's bus services, increasing class sizes, laying off teachers and closing schools, many of our public servants are continuing to get raises.

There is a huge disconnect between what is being done in the private sector to survive economically and what is continuing to happen in the public sector. I would argue my support for paycuts and pension reform are toward increasing the amount of jobs and services in the public sector and is not in any way to be thought otherwise.

I'd like to see all of our public servants, all of us for that matter, receive more for what we do. But we simply can't afford it. Being fiscally responsible is not being against unions, government workers or retirees; it is about MATH…what can we do to sustain these essential services government once was able to provide for generations.

9. What is your position on public/private partnerships? Do you support contracting out services/programs if the private and/or nonprofit sector can provide them at a lower cost or higher efficiency?

Yes, but I want to try to make government work with reforms first. I've seen many times, if not for the incomparable benefit costs in the public sector, they may be able to compete with the private sector. In San Diego they are doing just that, having departments bid on services in competition with the private sector.

10. If North Bay Leadership Council endorsed you, would you use our name publicly as an endorser? Are you interested in receiving a campaign contribution from us? If so, how much of a donation would you like to receive?

Of course I would be honored to get your endorsement or duo-endorsement; and I would appreciate receiving any campaign contributions from the NBLC or any of your members.

It appears the race for the new 2nd Assembly District will be historic with two Democrats facing each other in the November general election. The better we do in the June primary the better our odds to win in November. Any assistance from the NBLC would be of immensely helpful.