Editor’s note: This is another article in the News-Press series on candidates in the Nov. 3 election.
Should he win re-election in less than one week, 35th District Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham’s first order of business will be addressing affordability and economic development in San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County.
The Republican incumbent is running against Democrat challenger and Morro Bay City Council member Dawn Addis.
Assemblyman Cunningam said economic development entails ensuring the district has high quality head-of-household jobs that will enable people to live on the Central Coast, a particularly pressing issue since Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County is scheduled for decommission in 2025.
Mr. Cunningham said the closure will result in the loss of between 1,000 and 1,500 jobs that pay an average salary of $157,000 a year.
In an interview with the News-Press, the assemblyman said of his district, “It’s the best place to live and work, but it’s a pretty expensive place, and I think we need to be mindful of that in not enacting policies that are going to make it more expensive.”
To do this, Assemblyman Cunningham stressed that it’s crucial to protect his district’s agricultural industry.
Because of this, he doesn’t support Proposition 15, which would amend the state Constitution to require commercial and industrial properties with more than $3 million in holdings be taxed based on their market value. Adopting Prop. 15 would reverse the property tax system under Proposition 13, under which residential, commercial, and industrial properties are taxed according to their purchase price.
“This is just the worst time ever to be raising costs and taxes on businesses,” Mr. Cunningham said.
He explained that increasing property taxes will ultimately get landlords to “pass cost down” to business owners who rent spaces on triple net leases, as it’s “the way of the world.” Not only does he expect Prop. 15 to negatively impact small businesses, but agriculture as well
“It’s going to hit small business and it is going to hit ag big time, and it is going to hit the price of food,” he said.
The assemblyman added that Prop. 15 exempting agricultural land from property tax hikes is of no comfort because lands that produce agricultural goods all have improvements that are taxed under Prop. 15. Improvements include barns, irrigation, dairies and agricultural equipment.
“The idea that there’s some exemption for ag under Prop. 15 is ridiculous,” he said.
Mr. Cunningham remarked that he should be re-elected because he has a history of “delivering big ticket items” to the Central Coast without raising taxes.
As an example, he cited SB 1090, a bill that he introduced along with state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel. The bipartisan legislation sets aside $85 million to mitigate the impacts of Diablo Canyon closing. Part of those funds will be dedicated to retraining the power plant’s employees so they can continue living on the Central Coast.
One way the assemblyman hopes to increase the number of high-paying jobs in his district is by working with colleagues in his own party and across the aisle to have U.S. Space Command establish its headquarters at Vandenberg Air Force Base, which is currently on the short list.
If Space Command does set up headquarters at Vandenberg, Mr. Cunningham said he would work to reinvigorate the California Aerospace and Aviation Commission, which would act as a clearing house should private sector space industry companies hit snags when trying to work with the public sector.
Not only does Assemblyman Cunningham want to attract companies like SpaceX to the Central Coast, but Elon Musk’s competitors as well.