The Valley Industry Association’s monthly luncheon Tuesday featured a discussion by both candidates vying to represent the 38th Assembly District — Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, and challenger Christy Smith.
Smith and Acosta spoke about issues pertaining to small-business owners in the district, such as taxes, local control and workers’ compensation laws.
Acosta positioned himself as the candidate with experience in the Legislature who had general caution toward imposing new taxes and an understanding of the private sector from his own work experience.
Smith touted her background as a member of the Newhall School District governing board and the legislative vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Trustees Association, saying she would bring a new perspective to the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento, prioritizing education and sustainable budget accountability.
Both candidates differed on the ballot propositions for the upcoming Nov. 6 election.
Smith supported having a robust rainy day fund in the event of an economic downturn, while Acosta said that the Legislature had too much undistributed money in backup funds, citing two that had been created in addition to the rainy day fund.
“Can we rely on Sacramento because of unfunded mandates they put on local governments, making us pick up the tab?” he said.
In regard to Proposition 6, which would overturn the 12-cent-per-gallon gas tax from Senate Bill 1 passed last year to partially fund infrastructure projects, Smith and Acosta also differed.
Smith said she wasn’t on the Legislature at the time to cast a vote, and had heard from voters on both sides of the issue.
“I want to leave it up to the voters,” she said. “I’ve heard from folks who have some logistics component to their small business and this additional charge is really going to affect their bottom line. And I’ve heard from some people who, for them, transportation is a main part of how they’re living as they commute long distances.
“Repair of our infrastructure is essential to continue economic growth,” Smith said. “No one likes new taxes, but we have to do something.”
Acosta stated that he had voted no on SB 1 and that there were more than $1.1 billion in trucker-wait fees that the Legislature had not used to supplement the transportation projects currently funded by SB 1. He also said there was no accountability for how the tax money acquired from SB 1 was being spent, as part of it had gone to unrelated projects.
Smith talked about retaining local control in the case of Proposition 10, which would expand local governments’ authority to enact rent control on residential property. A “yes” vote from California residents would abolish the existing Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which prohibits local governments from regulating how much landlords can charge tenants for renting apartments and houses.
Acosta said he opposes the proposition because the market flow would be disrupted when larger cities decided to not enact rent control, leading Californians to possibly move to cities like Santa Clarita and disrupt a balance of supply and demand.
Smith and Acosta agreed that a housing shortage was the reason for high rents, but Smith said that working “hand and glove” with Sacramento on developing inventory with local contractors was the solution.
In regard to worker’s compensation laws, Smith said the auditing process needed to be employed to target significant abuses, and structural market changes and better employee education would alleviate the issue.
Acosta said that frivolous lawsuits needed better accountability so small businesses wouldn’t be abused by lawsuits from former employees.
Smith also said that, if she were elected as a Democrat, her background from living in a swing district would serve her in being able to leverage votes from within the supermajority to help small businesses, among other issues.
Acosta voiced skepticism, saying that the majority party was reticent to relaxing business regulations and that different perspectives from the minority Republican party were needed to work across the aisle.