On Oct. 22, with less than two weeks left before the midterm elections, the Republican candidate for governor of California, John Cox, sat down with The Epoch Times to discuss the race and issues facing the state.
The Epoch Times: California is leading the nation in becoming a sanctuary state. What is your opinion of the sanctuary-state idea?
John Cox: The first role of the government is to make sure that people are protected in their homes and on the streets. Just about every sheriff in California is opposed to the sanctuary-state policy that my opponent, Gavin Newsom [who is currently California’s lieutenant governor, and previously served as mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011] serves as its chief proponent. We’ve got to make sure that people who are here to do criminal acts are removed from California. The sanctuary-state policy works against that.
I don’t want anybody’s papers being checked in their yards, or in their classrooms. The place to do that is at the border. Let’s make sure the border is secure. But I don’t want ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] going to people’s homes that are law-abiding, and taking people out.
We need to solve the immigration problem, but we need to do that in Washington, and we need to come together to do that. But it is absolutely wrong to say we’re not going to have law enforcement work with ICE to get the criminals out.
Immigrants who are criminals are a very tiny minority of the immigrants who are here. But they can cause a lot of harm to people. We need to make sure that the criminal element isn’t in our state.
California Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox with Epoch Times reporter Nathan Su in the northern California offices of The Epoch Times on Oct. 22, 2018. (Mark Cao/The Epoch Times)
The Epoch Times: Talking about life in California, a lot of businesses are actually leaving the state. What’s the reason for that, and do you have any plans to fix that?
Mr. Cox: Oh, absolutely that’s No. 1 on the agenda, really, because people just can’t afford to live in California. That’s one of the reasons.
Think about it, business needs to have employees, right? And if those employees can’t afford to buy a house, can’t afford gasoline, can’t afford electricity, can’t afford the basic stuff of life, those businesses have to go somewhere where their employees can live. That’s one of the biggest problems obviously in California. It is one of the toughest states to do business in, and the regulations are ridiculous.
My opponent, Mr. Newsom, is going to continue that, and may make it worse, as a matter of fact. We need to cut regulations, and need to make sure that bureaucracy works for business, and not the other way around. We need to make sure that we make California affordable so that businesses can be here without busting their budget.
It’s all this [lack of] affordability that is really making California just completely uncompetitive. If you manufacture something in California, you’re basically almost locked out of competition with the rest of the world, because of the cost structure of operating here with the cost of housing, and gasoline, and all the things that have been driven up by government. That cost structure makes you virtually uncompetitive to do business in California.
The Epoch Times: Now talking about the gas tax you just mentioned, that is one of the hot topics now. There’s a lot of discussion about that. If we actually repeal the gas tax, do we have enough money to maintain our roads and freeways?
Mr. Cox: Go to Texas. You’ll see beautiful highways that are well-maintained, and you know what? Texas spends half [of the costs] per mile than what we spend. How does that happen? Does concrete or asphalt cost a lot less in Texas than in California? The answer is, of course, no.
In California, we have regulations that drive up the cost of the construction. We have excessive overhead. Caltrans is inefficient. They don’t cut good deals with contractors primarily because those contractors fund political campaigns, and then they jack up the price to Californians in the process. The point is we’re not getting our money’s worth from our road construction. We have plenty of money. We have plenty of money to build great roads.
The Epoch Times: You mean that the state actually has more than enough in the budget for roads?
Mr. Cox: Absolutely, but we spend it horribly. We’re spending it at twice the rate of Texas for each mile. And, by the way, it’s not just Texas. There are other states we’ve been compared to, and our overhead and our waste are just too high.
As the governor of the state, I’m not going to waste money. I’m going to audit Caltrans, and I’m going to make sure that every penny we spend is appropriate, and efficient, and useful. We’ll get a lot of roads built without the gas tax, and people will have a more affordable life.
The Epoch Times: The cost of housing in the Bay Area is absolutely skyrocketing. What’s the reason for that, and do you have any plans to fix that?
Mr. Cox: I have a lot of plans to fix that. I’m in the housing business. I build apartments in Indiana for $90,000 a dorm, that would cost $600,000 in San Francisco or the rest of the Bay Area. Now, what do you think accounts for that difference?
The Epoch Times: What makes that difference?
Mr. Cox: Regulations, lawsuits, red tape, taxes, delays. These are the issues we have to attack. My opponent has this 15-point plan, which is more government, more regulations, more handouts, more debt, more bonds. That’s not going to solve the problem.
The way you solve this problem is to bring down the cost, shorten the time for approval, do away with frivolous lawsuits, and reform CEQA—the California Environmental Quality Act. It’s gotta be reformed.
The trouble is that Sacramento is owned by interest groups that want those regulations protected, because they make money from them. We need to make sure that we can build cost-effectively, more efficiently.
There’s no reason that I should be able to build in another state for a tiny fraction of what it costs to build here, and that’s one of the first things I’m going to attack as governor.
The Epoch Times: Here in the Bay Area, the Asian community is very focused on education. In California we have pretty much the highest investment in education, but the academic ranking of our schools is pretty far down. What’s the reason? Do you have a plan to fix it?
Mr. Cox: There’s too much politics in the school system. They’re run by the politicians and there’s too much political influence. We passed a tax increase, we raised billions of dollars more. The money went to administration and went to pensions. It didn’t get to the classrooms.
We’ve got to start treating teachers like professionals. I’ve said that I want to pay them like rock stars and baseball players, based on merit, based on how well they do.
I know a lot of teachers may not like that because they think the politicians aren’t going to judge us appropriately. Well, they’re right, but the answer to that is to get the parents and local authorities back in control, and that’s what I want to do with education.
My mom was a teacher. I was a president of a school board when I was 27 years old. I’ve had a lifetime devoted to education. It’s unacceptable to me that we’ve got the [No.] 47th-ranked education system in the country. We should be No. 1.
[For] Gavin Newsom and the political class in Sacramento, it’s on their watch that we’ve spent billions more in our education, and results going down.
I’m also an opponent of affirmative action, based on race. This is a big issue now in the Asian community, and I think it’s appropriate that we debate this.
Affirmative action based on economic matters, [that] I’m fine with. Steph Curry’s kids don’t need affirmative action. He’s got the resources to do what he wants, right? It shouldn’t be based on race. It should be based on merit and the ability to pay.
People that haven’t had the opportunity, people who don’t have the resources should be given an advantage and should be given a leg up. But that shouldn’t matter whether you’re Asian, African American, Hispanic or whatever.
Chief Justice John Roberts said we will stop discrimination based on race when we stop discriminating based on race. We need to make sure that we live in a meritocracy, where everybody is treated according to the content of their character, and their hard work, and their willingness to do what they need to do.
The Epoch Times: A lot of people are concerned about our state government’s debt. How much does our state government owe?
Mr. Cox: You know that is horrendous. I mean this is a huge issue. Most people don’t focus on this in their daily lives, but they need to know that it’s out there, and we need to address it, because we have $1 trillion in unfunded pension debt.
Gavin Newsom left San Francisco with $10 billion in unfunded pension debt. When he was mayor of San Francisco, it was voted the worst-managed city in the country. In California, we need to address that debt. His policies would add more taxes, more debt, and more burden on our children, our grandchildren; I think that is absolutely irresponsible. We need to make sure to address this, and start putting the money away.
The biggest thing that we have to do is we have to grow our economy. We are not going to be able to tackle these debts the politicians have run up unless we grow the economy.
I have a plan for building three million homes in the next 10 years. If we bring down the cost of buildings, builders are going to flood into California because they’ll be able to build homes less expensively; that’ll make them affordable for people. It will get much, much better results, and will grow the economy, and create jobs for plumbers, electricians, roofers, excavators, carpet layers. When you grow the pie, we all benefit.
Gavin Newsom is all about growing things for the interest groups that fund his political campaigns, so he can run off and be President. I want to fix California.
The Epoch Times: California has had a steady increase in violent crime rates in the past four years. What is your opinion on that?
Mr. Cox: San Francisco recently achieved a milestone. It was voted No. 1 in the country in property crimes. This is not something you want.
My opponent, Mr. Newsom, was the only statewide official to endorse Prop. 47, which reclassified felonies as misdemeanors. Now. if you steal less than $950, it is a traffic ticket. You’ve got waves of crime going on in San Francisco, and Los Angeles. You can’t leave anything in your car in San Francisco now.
Gavin Newsom is behind lots of these measures that have been passed recently to go easy on criminals.
If you go easy on criminals, you are going to get more crime. If you don’t enforce your rules at home, and make your kids do homework, guess what, they wouldn’t do their homework. You’ve got to enforce the rules, and you’ve got to make sure there is a consequence when they do [crime]. If you don’t do that, you are going to have more crimes.
We’ve got to repeal Prop. 47, and make sure the people who commit crimes are punished.
Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity