Interview with State Sen. Josh Becker

State Senator Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), an advocate for innovative education funding in California and author of SB 893, took time to answer questions with The Skyline View about housing, transportation, and community colleges.


The Skyline View: You were the author of SB 893, which waves most fees for community college students in San Mateo County. Do you plan to advocate for an extension of this once it expires in about five years? 

Senator Josh Becker: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we wanted to prove that it could work and so far, the results are excellent. We have thousands of students benefiting, our enrollment is up 15% because of SB 893. So the results are excellent and that’s what we need to do: prove that it works.

TSV: That was something that was very well received by the students, particularly in our county and SMCCCD, so we’re all very happy about that.

Sen. Becker: [The] proofs in the pudding. But yeah, so far, it’s working great.

TSV: Another issue is the price of gas. A lot of students have been looking into alternative methods of transportation. As a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, are there any legislation or efforts to increase funding for public transportation?

Sen. Becker: Yeah. I had a bill last year called the Seamless Bay Area Bill, trying to make sure that we have better coordination. So, without even spending additional money, if we have fair coordination and schedule coordination we would greatly improve public transit as well as better signage and better data.

So people know where the train is going to connect with the bus and all this sort of stuff.

Even though this issue didn’t pass, it got the conversation started, so there’s a lot we can still work including Seamless Bay Area.

Right now, as you know many of our transits are in crisis. CalTrains particularly had a very high fair box recovery. I think almost 80%, which is a lot for a transit agency because they have such a high community worker ridership.

But now this is where people are working from home and commuting less. It’s really taken its toll. But all the agencies are suffering greatly and they’re all coming to us for efforts to try to help save them and get them additional funding. And we’re working on it.

And then in the longer term, you want to see new priorities. Things like Dumbarton Rail. We need to get east-west transit going. Those are the people that are commuting hours into the bay area and this is not a good way for them right now in most cases. So that’s I think what we’re working on

TSV: All right. And one last question. Housing is of particular importance, especially for the students and the faculty in the county with ways. Would you like to see this be addressed by the Senate and the local government?

Senator Josh Becker: Well, that’s a big issue everywhere in the Bay Area.

The thing is colleges, and our community college in particular often have land that we could build. San Mateo County has been a leader in our community colleges of building staff housing, but we could look at doing more as well, and to do that we need funding from the State.

And we actually passed last year about 1 billion dollars for housing on the campuses of our community colleges. The Governor, I believe, delayed that his first recent budget. So that is one of the things we’ll be discussing with him. But we have to now really g0 0ut and fight for those dollars.