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Toni Atkins Begins First Full Term As California Assembly Speaker

State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on KPBS Evening Edition

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Ensuring California remains fiscally stable while investing in education will be a priority for San Diegan Toni Atkins, who was re-elected to the California Assembly speaker post earlier this month.

Atkins, who was elected to the Legislature in 2010 and previously served on the San Diego City Council, said the state's budget will be a focus for her in the new year.

"We feel pretty good about our fiscal prudence," Atkins told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to see what we do for education. There isn't really a great deal more to spend so we have to focus on spending it wisely. We just feel that education is the one way to support all Californians but particularly the middle-class."

Atkins touched on her proposal to cancel the tuition hikes approved by the University of California regents in November and in turn increase funding for both the UC and California State systems by $150 million each.

"We're not happy with the tuition increases," Atkins said. "We're trying thoughtfully to put [the money] back but do it in a way that doesn't take away from our new-found fiscal stability."

Atkins said the biggest challenge the Assembly faced in 2014 was determining how to fix California's water system. But the $7.5 billion bonds approved by voters in November will help with that.

"I found water to be more complicated than the budget," Atkins said. "It took us a little longer, but I felt that everyone was pleased with the outcome."

Atkins, who is termed out of the Assembly in 2016, said she isn't sure if she'll run for the state Senate but does plan to encourage more women to run for office.

"We are losing women in the Legislature and I have a particular commitment to support women," said Atkins, a supporter of the nonprofit advocacy group Run Women Run. "We're down to 25 percent in the Legislature."

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