Photo courtesy of Sen. Joel Anderson

Sen. Joel Anderson had a good showing on Tuesday in his bid to replace Republican Diane Harkey on the state Board of Equalization.

He captured nearly twice the votes of his next closest competitors, Democrat Mike Schaefer and Republican John Kelly, who are still locked in a close battle to face Anderson in November.

Anderson has flirted with running for a number of different positions over the last couple years: He briefly launched a bid to unseat fellow Republican Dianne Jacob on the County Board of Supervisors, then said he’d wait until 2020 to run for the seat, when Jacob will be termed out. He at one point opened a campaign account to raise money for a 2018 Assembly bid.

Still, he told me this week that a spot on the Board of Equalization has “always been a dream job” and said he’s “excited about the prospect of updating our tax code. I know it sounds goofy – and everyone laughs at me.”

Anderson said he worked as a real estate appraiser through college, an experience he thinks gives him unique qualifications for the role.

If elected, “I will be laser-focused on updating all of the assessor handbooks and rules and ordinances. We should for example – the oil industry is one of the assessees that we assess – but there’s been no updating of the rules. There are all sorts of things that come up that are not addressed by the rules,” Anderson said.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that stripped the Board of Equalization of much of its powers. But its role overseeing property tax collection is enshrined in the state Constitution.

As for his remaining time in the Legislature, Anderson said two bills are his top priority – one is a measure that would speed compensation to the wrongfully convicted. The other would set aside 10 percent of any fine levied by the California Public Utilities Commission following a wildfire to be utilized for wildfire prevention efforts in the affected area. Right now, the entirety of those fines goes into the general fund, where Anderson said they can be used for things like “butterfly festivals.”

“I want 10 percent to stay in the community to mitigate and help rebuild,” Anderson said.

In the race to replace Anderson in the state Senate, voters might recognize a familiar face: Former Republican Assemblyman Brian Jones easily took first place in Tuesday’s primary; he’ll face Democrat Jeff Griffith, a firefighter and Palomar Health District board member.

We Have a State Budget

Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate leader Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on Friday announced they’d reached a deal on this year’s state budget.

Legislators and the governor had been wrangling over how much money should go into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, and how much should go toward easing homelessness and other priorities. Lawmakers, for example, had asked for $1.5 billion to fight homelessness; Brown proposed spending $359 million on homelessness​ and $312 million for mental health services, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The compromise: $500 million, with $250 million allocated to continuums of care — regional groups that address homelessness — $150 million going directly to cities with populations over 330,000 and $100 million allocated based on homeless populations.

For the first time in a decade, the budget “will include an obscure provision to guarantee future minimum funding levels for schools and community colleges — at the expense of everything else,” notes Capitol Public Radio.

The Scramble to Get a Tunnels Deal Before a New Gov Moves in

For decades, Gov. Jerry Brown has struggled to build a new project to bring water south from Northern California.

His power is limited because the state has refused to pay for either version of the project – the peripheral canal in the 1980s or the twin tunnels today. Both projects were supposed to be paid for entirely by water agencies and, of course, their customers, which includes almost everybody in Southern California and many farmers in the Central Valley.

In the 1980s, Brown took a project to state voters, who rejected it.

Now, he’s trying to wrangle a few big water agencies in the state to pony up about $17 billion. To do that, he needs the support of those agencies’ boards.

A batch of internal records show how some of that wrangling happened among Southern California water officials.

The push for the project does not break down along party lines. The Metropolitan Water District board member who helped put together the votes, Brett Barbre of Orange County, is a Republican; Brown is a Democrat.

For months, it’s been clear how much Brown wants to put together a deal before he leaves office, though texts between Metropolitan officials show just how worried Brown is about the next governor undoing all this work.

Last month, Brown said the only governor between his two stints in office to do anything on water was Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to a transcript of remarks he made to water industry officials.

“The only time you get anything done with water is when a Brown is governor,” he said, alluding to the State Water Project, which his father built and which the twin tunnels are meant to fix. “And there are no more Browns coming along, so you better get it done.”

The two candidates vying to replace Brown, Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox, oppose the twin tunnels. Newsom has suggested he could support a more modest project, like a single tunnel, but some water officials worry such a big change would send the whole project back to the drawing board for a decade or more.

– Ry Rivard

Golden State News

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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