Ben Allen wants to see California re-invest its budget surplus into programs he said have been neglected for too long.

Speaking to the Santa Monica Democratic Club (SMDC) last Wednesday, the State Senator said as the fiscal year 2022-23 budget drew nearer, he was advocating in Sacramento for ways to see State money directed toward infrastructure, education and climate resiliency. That would mean moving away from cutting more Golden State Stimulus checks and toward statewide investments.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure to try to, you know, create all these tax cuts and rebates, and I do certainly agree that a certain portion of our population has really been suffering that needs the budget surplus,” Allen said, “but I also think that there’s so much backlog, in terms of investment, that we’ve just under invested in over the years.” Allen cited education, transit, homelessness and climate resiliency as key areas where he felt state money could be targeted.

One obstacle in Allen’s way is the Gann Limit — the cap in what the State is permitted to appropriate each budget year — but the Senator said that, though complicated, he believed there were ways to work around it; he also hoped it may be reformed in a 2024 ballot measure. 

The SMDC hosted Allen, representing Santa Monica in District 26, for an update from Sacramento during an April 27 meeting. Speaking to the Club and Q&A moderator SMDC Programs VP Melissa Goodman, Allen covered a range of topics including the upcoming election as well as his priorities for 2022.

He described a diversity of priorities for the 2022 legislative session, with issues ranging from transit to recycling to gender neutral bathrooms and much more.

“It’s been a very, very — a very busy time in Sacramento right now …  we’ve had all these major bill deadlines that have been coming up this week,” Allen said.

Allen said he sponsored a bill that would require new multifamily units to be built wired for electric car chargers in their garages. 

“It’s crazy to be building more and more multifamily units without even electricity capacity down in the garage,” Allen opined. 

He said he was also invested in increasing transit availability, saying he had a “big bill that’s going to help speed up our transit projects in the build-up to the 2028 Olympics.”

On the climate side, Allen was hoping a bill he sponsored that would give the California Coastal Commission authority to levy fines against unpermitted damage to California wetlands and coastal water would move forward. He called it “the first opportunity for the State to finally hold oil companies accountable.”

The latest news to come out of the Senator’s office was a new bill, SB 1194, which would allow municipalities to provide multi-stall gender-neutral bathrooms in public buildings. The bill, which Allen said he partnered with West Hollywood to write, passed the bipartisan housing committee unanimously on Wednesday.

“The fact that we had this bill — that is going to allow West Hollywood to do what’s such an important thing for so many of its residents, especially the trans community that’s been so vilified and attacked of late — and to have the Republican members of our housing committee vote for this bill was just such … a heartwarming thing,” Allen said. “I mean, this moment of extreme partisanship, demonization of the trans community on the right, it’s just a wonderful moment of humanity, to have them recognize the value of a bill like this.”

He also acknowledged the likelihood of seeing a Republican challenger on the ballot for the November midterm elections, after club members suggested the two-term incumbent had the race sewn up.

The write-in challenger, whom Allen did not name, was likely to appear on the November ballot, he said, due to the way primaries are organized in California.

The progressive went on to disparage his potential opponent: “She seems like a very nice person who watches way too much Fox News, and she’s just kind of like adopted all the crazy Republican conspiracy theories.”

Should Allen win re-election, it would be for his third and final term as a legislator in Sacramento due to a 12-year term limit. Goodman asked about his reflections on his first eight years and whether his legislative style may change in his third term. Allen said it has been a learning process to develop instincts for when to rise to a challenge and when to sit back.

“I think I know the system better now and I know where I can push more, and I do,” Allen said, later adding, “Now that I’ve got a deeper ‘Spidey-sense,’ I’m going to be more proactive in helping to steer things that I think might … be a little off kilter or may not be in the best interest of my community.”

emily@smdp.com