Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, said during a State of the State luncheon Thursday afternoon in Valencia that California is not balanced.
Hosted by the Valley Industry Association at the Hyatt Regency Valencia, Wilk and Valladares spoke rather candidly in a Q&A-type setting with moderator Ed Masterson, VIA’s vice chair of workforce development. They talked about the challenges of getting things done in this state and the promise that still lies ahead to a room full of city leaders and other elected officials, business owners and Santa Clarita Valley citizens.
“I don’t care what Sacramento politicians tell you,” Wilk said to the crowd, “it’s the invisible hand in the free market that tells you the truth.”
He said he uses what he calls his annual U-Haul test, where he looks at what it costs to rent a specific U-Haul truck from Santa Clarita to go one way to a couple of different locations in the country, and then what it costs to rent the same truck from those two places to come back. He chose to look at Henderson, Nevada, and McKinney, Texas.
In 2018, he said, the cost to rent the truck in Santa Clarita to go to Henderson was $518. The cost in Henderson for that truck to come back was $153. In 2020, he continued, the truck cost $782 in Santa Clarita and $241 in Henderson.
Wilk added that he checked those numbers last weekend and found that the truck cost $522 in Santa Clarita and $287 in Henderson.
“So, we’re making gains there,” he said, “and we can be proud of that. But the fact of the matter is, is, you know, Nevada is a nuclear waste dump site. I really don’t know that we’ve got bragging rights.”
However, he added, that same truck in 2018 from Santa Clarita to McKinney was $2,790, and coming back was $985. In 2020, that truck in Santa Clarita cost $2,965, and coming back was $1,273. In 2021 during the pandemic, according to Wilk, the truck cost $4,028 in Santa Clarita and it remained at $1,273 in McKinney.
“This tells you all you need to know,” the senator said. “These are the other states, and I just pray to God that Gavin Newsom is never president of the United States.”
Valladares echoed Wilk’s sentiments in her comments on Thursday, saying that the state of the state is the lack of balance in California with too many Democrats who are too progressive and not willing to address the issues.
“Government’s meant to be a two-party system,” she said, “and it’s not, unfortunately, in California.”
She talked about the difference between registered Democrats and the “Democrats in Sacramento” who, she said, are “very far-left progressive Democrats.”
“Now, all of our districts have been redistributed,” she continued. “So, I think there is opportunity to bring some balance in this election in November and in two years again. You also have the great resignation of legislators that have retired or moved on, even early.”
Wilk added to that, saying that one of the reasons he decided to take on the responsibilities of Senate Republican leader in 2021 was because he felt he had the skill set to fill more seats with Republicans to create that better balance that Valladares was talking about.
“When I first got elected to the Senate,” he said, “we were at 14 Republicans and then went to 11, and then it went to nine.”
With 40 senators total, Wilk said those numbers keep him up late at night, and that he’s working to fix the situation.
And while Wilk and Valladares talked about Sacramento’s poor handling of the drought, homelessness, mental health and the governor’s approach to the energy crisis, which, Valladares said can’t be a 100% electricity plan, they both continue to push to make a difference, they told listeners.
Valladares said she was proud to announce that her Saugus Strong Act, formally known as Assembly Bill 312, aimed at reducing campus shootings and improving school safety, passed the Senate Education Committee last week.
“What this bill is going to do,” she said, “is create a statewide, mandatory, anonymous reporting system that every single district would have access to use. And while here in Santa Clarita we have — the Hart High School District has an anonymous reporting system — we have over two decades of data that show that anonymous reporting systems save lives and stop violence on campuses.”
Toward the end of the luncheon on Thursday, Masterson asked questions supplied by the audience. One question that embodied the sentiments of the afternoon was directed at Wilk: “Do you work well with the governor?”
Wilk said he had former Gov. Jerry Brown’s cell phone number when Brown was in office. He does not, he told listeners, have Gov. Gavin Newsom’s number.
The state is not balanced, Wilk and Valladares recapped. But with balance and better communication with Sacramento, they said they have hope more can be done and more successful results can be expected.