When Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen recently refused to sign the no-tax pledge, she drew fire from many in the GOP and skepticism from Democrats.
But whatever the political fallout, it didn’t have much impact on Election Day: She easily carried the 12th AD, which covers most of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.
Drawing both praise and barbs for her thumbs-down on the no-tax pledge, Olsen wrote in a Sacramento Bee opinion piece that while she continues to favor low taxes she also believes that the pledge is used by “special interests (to) interpret what is or is not a violation of the pledge in order to serve their own special agendas” and “is frequently misconstrued and has become a distraction” to the message of the Republican Party. Clearly, her constituents agreed.
Olsen is regarded by some as a rising star in the party and was named Chief Republican Whip in her first term for what colleagues say is her ability to bring various party factions together in a common effort. She serves as a member of the Agriculture, Insurance, and Joint Sunset Review Committees, Vice Chair of the Higher Education Committee and Chair of the Legislative Rural Caucus. She was one of eight Republican Assembly members who opened their operating budgets to public scrutiny, an act that drew media praise. Gov. Jerry Brown signed seven of the bills she proposed in the last session into law.
Olsen found her way into politics by serving as press secretary and legislative aide for state Sen. Tim Leslie, then served on the Modesto City Council, as well as the Modesto Citizens Housing and Community Development Committee and the Modesto City Planning Commission. She also worked as a marketing and communications executive at California State University Stanislaus, and also as an advocate for the California Restaurant Association. She and her husband have three children.
Capitol Weekly posed a number of questions to Olsen In a recent exchange.
How did your constituents respond to your refusal to sign the tax pledge?
The majority of the response I received from my decision to not sign the tax pledge was extremely positive. I think my constituents understand that California needs thoughtful, innovative, solution-oriented leaders who are accountable to them and them alone.
Did you support Proposition 30?
I did not support Proposition 30. I believe that state government has not been a good steward of budget revenue and should not have been rewarded with more hard-earned tax dollars. The Governor and Legislature should have focused on ways to further reduce spending while sparing schools from absorbing the brunt of budget cuts.
What are the issues most important to the health of your district?
Jobs and the economy are the most important issues in my district at this moment. We need to get people back to work and find ways to boost our economy and attract jobs back to California, specifically the Central Valley.
What action(s) are you planning to lead or support to provide solutions to those issues?
My focus is on advocating for policies that will help boost our economy. I supported legislation that would have required the state pass a balanced two-year budget so we start thinking long-term instead of passing temporary band-aid fixes that never permanently solve our problems. We are also putting together our legislative package for next year and focusing on ways to provide incentives for businesses to invest and expand.
Which one of the seven bills you proposed that Governor Brown signed will have the most societal impact?
Of all of my bills that were signed, I think AB 890, my California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reform bill, will have the most societal impact. It will streamline the process for cities and counties to make minor roadway safety improvements, saving them both time and money and increasing public safety. It was the result of two years of collaboration and commitment to make sure it would truly work, and I look forward to stalled projects now moving forward to completion.
Politics is a tough, no-hold-barred business. Will politics be your life and, if so, why?
The only reason that I got involved in public service is that I truly want to make a difference. I am blessed that I’ve been given opportunities to serve, and it’s something I take seriously. Whether I am in elected office or not, my objective will always be to look for ways to help enhance my community.