Mitchell Ing, the current vice mayor of Monterey Park and , believes his combined experience in public office and as a banker for the past 24 years can help him right the state's fiscal wrongs.
Ing found his way into politics after fighting against the construction of a casino in Monterey Park in 1994. He was 31 at the time, but in his words, he "went around and collected signatures" eventually gaining the notice of the local PTAs in addition to fellow residents. In about a week, Ing gathered 1,500 signatures and a throng of 750 people overflowed the Monterey Park City Hall, with residents spilling into the corridors and leading to the fire department turning people away. The casino was never built.
"The PTA and other people said to me that if I ever had any interest in running for city council or treasurer, they're going to support me," he said. "That's where my grassroots comes from."
Patch interviewed Ing for a series of candidate profiles. The following interview has been edited for length.
What inspired you to want to run for Assembly?
My wife has always cautioned me about Sacramento, because she interned with Senator Montoya in our area and he went to jail. She said it's ugly and dirty. She didn't think Sacramento would be something for us. The thing is, a seat is open now, and she said all the kids are grown up … and I waited as a father, and if you want to try it, you have my permission. I've always thought, "How do you mediate between two groups who aren't talking to each other?" Both sides think they're winning, but we're actually losing in this economy. Businesses will tell you that because of the uncertainty up in Sacramento, they would rather pay overtime to some of their employees than hire new ones, because they are afraid of laying them off in the future. Corporations are sitting on record profits but they are hesitant because Sacramento is bickering. Everyone is cautious, and you have to find a common ground and start working on those goals quickly.
You point to the state's fiscal instability and the lack of communication in Sacramento. How do you think the state arrived at this point?
It's a progression of over 20 years of mismanaging. You have to understand, and this is what I do in banking … when we take care of accounts for municipalities, school districts, educational foundations, we have a fiduciary role. We have to safeguard their funds. It's not our money, it's the public's money. Sacramento needs to realize that every decision they make, it's not their money. They also have to ask the question, "Where's the money going to come from when you fund a program? And you have to sustain a program, so where's the money going to come from?"
I asked one of our departments seven years ago, "You have a $9 million budget. How much of that money do you actually need?" And truthfully, they told me $8.5. But the way government is set up, it penalizes that department twice. Not only would you take $500,000 and give it to another department, you would also cut their budget to $8.5 million the following year. So they have to use what you give them -- they have to use it or lose it, similar to teachers buying supplies in classrooms. Now you're creating a structure where you're allowing people to waste. The other thing is, when you budget similar to what cities, counties and states do, you're projecting a revenue stream. If you overproject, which is easy to do, you match expenses with revenues. When you realize the revenues aren't going to come to fruition and you overestimate, it's too late now. You've already spent the money. There are too many layers of bureaucracy to make adjustments. That's why you have instead of a $9.2 billion deficit, you have a $17 billion deficit in the state of California now. It's increased more than 60 percent, because they overprotected it by 60 percent. To me, your projections have to be realistic.
What most separates you from the other two candidates?
As a former City Treasurer of Monterey Park with a MBA in Finance and with 24 years in the banking industry with experience in managing the accounts for municipalities, school districts, educational foundation, not-for-profits, and small businesses, I understand my fiduciary role in safeguarding public funds. As a resident of the 49th Assembly District for 30 years, I understand the needs of our community and the issues they are concerned about. For example, balancing the budget in a timely manner. I believe that if the budget is not balanced, Assembly members should not be paid. I will stop local and state elected officials from receiving life time health benefits for themselves and their families after serving only five years and reaching the age of 50. I will reform the California pension to resolve the “unfunded liabilities.”
Do you look at yourself as a favorite or an underdog?
Dr. Mathew Lin and I are the only two candidates that are qualified to run for Assembly in the 49th District. It is in the California Constitution that you are required to live in the District for one year. Edwin Chau only recently moved into the District so he could run for the Assembly seat.
You have a lot of youth support in your history, so what do you think about any talk of cutting from education to help balance the budget?
I am not in support of cuts to our educational system. Education, to me, is now being used as a bargaining chip. Gov. Jerry Brown has basically said "We're going to increase the tax of a quarter-percent interest on sales tax, and I'm gonna tax those who are making $250,000 per household, and if you're not going to give me this, I'm going to hurt education." To me, he's tugging at the heartstrings of those who hold dear to education and parents who have kids in the school district. I don't believe that's the only solution. Coming from government, I know where our waste is. You have to look at that waste before you think of any tax increases. A lot of times, government entities think, "How much water -- revenue -- do we need? Can we tax? Can we charge fees," and I say there's a hole in the bucket. What you're trying to do is figure out how much water to pour in the bucket to maintain that level of service. But yet, you don't realize, no matter how much water you pour into the bucket, you have to plug up the holes first.
You've mentioned some issues in the state's college system. What are you seeing?
There is a bottleneck, like a freeway, in the system that's happening right now, and it's going to be worse next year, and it's going to be worse the next two or three years. The California system now has to think outside the box … we have to find ways to reroute traffic off the freeway. You look at the four-year curriculum of a student in college now … if you're an engineering student, is it possible for you to get an internship at an engineering firm? And would that experience equate to credits in college? If that's true, and I think the practical application is just as important in the working world, that way it frees up a seat for an incoming student. It allows the current student to have work experience that's going to be great for the resume. Companies that have downsized now get an educated person who knows CAD, or computer design, who's going to benefit them. In Monterey Park, I placed people in the Public Works department, and there are other cities willing to take interns. They shadow the engineers and actually do work and contribute to the department and get jobs. So it's a win-win-win situation not only for the incoming student who gets a seat in class, the current student who gets experience, but also companies that have downsized in the past who now have a young and educated workforce.