Race for the 24th: Katcho Achadjian

In anticipation of forums to be broadcast live on-air by KCRW in Santa Barbara, all candidates for the 24th Congressional district were asked to respond to this questionnaire. The responses have been published without editing.

Given how dysfunctional Congress is now, how do you intend to get anything done?

I believe one of the biggest motivators to hold Congress accountable is their paycheck. If hard working Americans do not do their job, they do not get paid. If Congress can’t work together to pass an on-time, balanced budget, I believe their paychecks should be withheld.

I will fight for a No Budget, No Pay law. If the federal budget is not passed on time all members of Congress should forfeit their pay every day until the budget is passed. Paychecks should not go on hold in an escrow account where they will collect it later; members of Congress should never receive that pay.

How would you prevent another oil spill like the Refugio Spill in Santa Barbara?

Automatic shutoff valves are practically standard now. Last year I took the steps I could at the state level to increase protections of our coastline. I voted to pass SB 295, which requires annual inspections of interstate pipelines, AB 846, which requires remote leak detectors and automatic shut­off valves, and SB 414, which equips commercial fishermen with tools to help contain leaks in their areas.

In Congress, I would support legislation that requires automatic shutoff valves. It’s a commonsense step to protecting our California coastline and preventing serious oil spills. I would also support penalizing the responsible party if they were aware of the weak spot in the pipeline and ignored it.

After the recent San Bernardino shooting and the shootings in Isla Vista, how would you reshape laws surrounding gun control?

While I may support allocating more resources for mental health, I do not support any weakening of the Second Amendment.

This March, Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials raided Bonita Packing Company in Santa Maria and forced the company to fire 291 farm workers because of their non-legal immigration status. According to the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, about 72% of the roughly 17,000 farm workers in Santa Barbara County are undocumented. This comes when there is a 25% labor shortage in the county, according to the Agricultural Advisory Committee. How would you handle the issue of undocumented workers and the need for labor across the district?

This critical issue is a prime example of the need for substantial immigration reform. These farm workers comprise an important part of our work force on the Central Coast. It is a priority for me to streamline the work visa program and reduce the complicated bureaucracy that currently exists for both employers in need of a labor force and farm workers looking for honest work.

Recent studies have shown that on average students graduate with $30,000 in student debt. What would you do to help make college more affordable?

Affordability is the greatest challenge facing higher education today. I worked many jobs while in college, but the cost of education today has far exceeded the wages a part-time job can provide. The cost of college is putting degrees out of the reach of many students and working families and student loan debt is making it harder for graduates to achieve their goals once they get a degree.

President Obama proposed taxing the savings accounts that many students and families use to save for their education. This would only push families and students deeper into debt. I continue to support the bi-partisan legislation passed by the House to protect tax-free 529 college savings plans to protect college savings accounts.

Additionally, I also support zero-interest student loans and flexible repayment plans for students who have recently graduated.

These protections, and others like them, are imperative to helping working families and students save more money and take on less or no debt in obtaining an advanced degree.

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