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By Sameea Kamal

In summary

State Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat running for California comptroller, says he knows “where the bodies are buried” from his legislative experience. And he promises to stand up to his fellow Democrats in power so he can be an independent watchdog.

Democrat Steve Glazer says he's not afraid to speak out against his own party. That, the Bay Area state senator says, is why he's the best candidate for state controller. You might as well regard your last-minute entry into the crowded driver race as an act of defiance. Glazier announced his campaign on March 7, just four days before the filing deadline and just after the California Democratic Party had endorsed the controller post. The position of state fiscal director has been held for seven years by Betty Yee, who is no longer eligible for re-election. Other contenders include Board of Equalization President Malia Cohen , who won the endorsement of the state Democratic Party, as well as Democrats Ron Galperin, Los Angeles City Controller, and Yvonne Yiú , former mayor of Monterey Park. There's also Lanhee Chen , a Republican political adviser who says it takes someone who isn't a member of the dominant party to really be an independent watchdog of state finances. But the crowded race hasn't deterred Glazer . In a recent conversation with CalMatters, the senator defended the job and his path to victory. Here are five takeaways: An independent streak Glazer doesn't have the backing of the Democratic Party, but he said he's not worried. After all, he points out, he did not have party support for his two successful state Senate campaigns. Perhaps that is why he is not afraid to disagree with his party at times. When he ran in a special election in 2015, Glazer described himself as a pragmatic, pro-business, anti-tax candidate. He argued then, as he does now, that Democrats could "reclaim the mantle" as the fiscally responsible party because they know how important every tax dollar is to funding education and other progressive priorities.

Learn more about the legislators mentioned in this story

D

Steve Glazer

State Senate, District 7 (Walnut Creek)

D

Steve Glazer

State Senate, District 7 (Walnut Creek)

How you voted 2019-2020
conservativeliberal
District 7 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

latino21%
White49%
asian19%
Black6%
Multi-race5%

voter registration

Dem48%
republican23%
no party24%
Other4%
campaign contributions

Senator Steve Glazer has taken at least $1 million from the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 22% of his total campaign contributions.

In 2017, Glazer was the only Democrat in the state Senate to vote against a single-payer health care system because he wanted to see more cost control measures, and also because he believes the Affordable Care Act, Also known as Obamacare, it has significantly reduced the number of uninsured people in California. He says he does not accept gifts or trips of any special interest, something for which he singles out other lawmakers. “We've had examples of elected leaders at the local level and at the state level engaging in corruption and fraud and abuse in their spending budgets, in their travel budgets,” he said. "And I want to make it clear that I don't owe any favors and I'm not afraid of the responsibility of everyone, including your elected leaders."

In your opinion, that makes you the better candidate: criticism and recommendations from a fellow Democrat will have much more impact on the Legislature and state agencies than those of a Republican. “We are in a polarized political world these days. It gets flak from Republicans, and it's just partisan spitballs being thrown at people in power," Glazer said. A report by a Democratic controller “gets a lot more attention from the media and from others who, because they know he is a man biting a dog, are not supposed to say things about the administration when their party is in charge of she mentioned. His time in the Legislature helps, he adds, and sets him apart from Chen, who has spent much of his time in academia. "You don't have to sit in an ivory tower pretending you know what's going on," Glazer said. “You really have to have some experience to understand where the bodies are buried or how things are actually done. And I have a long history, okay? And you can say, 'Does experience matter? Does knowledge matter? I think so. Local Oversight One role of the controller is to oversee the disbursement of funds to local entities throughout the state. Glazer promises greater scrutiny of regional agencies that will monitor water quality, air quality and traffic between cities and counties. That includes Bay Area Rapid Transit. In 2013, as a candidate for state assembly , Glazer started a petition to ban traffic strikes that did not meet the required signatures. It's one of the regional agencies that Glazer says doesn't have enough accountability, in part because most voters don't pay attention to the elected boards of the regional agencies that do. “When you're inside a city, you have a much better chance of having that kind of responsibility, when you're elected by that city or by that county,” he said. "But these regional agencies don't have that." As comptroller, he says he would use audits to review how effectively money is being spent at public agencies at the local, regional and state levels: at schools (too many of which are failing, he says), at the Employment Development Department and in programs to address homelessness . Last year, Glazer introduced a bill to require oversight of $7 million in mental health spending in the state , a bill he says hasn't moved forward because the governor will veto it.

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Tax Reform Skeptics While the controller does not implement policy, he or she can make policy recommendations, including on taxes. Glazer supports Senate Democrats' plan toprovide a $200 per person stimulus payment to offset high gas prices. But while the economy is changing so that people spend more money on services than goods, Glazer sees no need for the state to make sweeping changes to the tax code. Even with the ups and downs in state tax revenue tied to the stock market, he says he wants to preserve California's progressively elevated income tax system that includes higher rates for the wealthy. "Increase the tax burden on low- and middle-income people in our state for the benefit of the wealthy." Furthermore, he said, "any change like that will probably have to be on the ballot and will most likely not be successful." Glazer also doesn't think the tax code should be changed to prevent wealthy people from leaving the state. “I think they still love California and all that we have to offer,” he said. “It is the most dynamic and innovative place on the planet.” State Pension Financing The controller sits on nearly 80 boards, including those that oversee pension funds for public employees and teachers. The state faces a significant shortfall in those funds: As of 2020, the state had only two-thirds of the money it had pledged. To address that, Glazer says the state may need to adjust the expected rate of return on investment, which is currently 6.8% per year . While the return on investments reached 21% in the fiscal year ending June 20, 2021, CalPERS returned 4.7% the previous year and has averaged 6.9% over the past 20 years. Investment earnings projections are used to calculate contributions from taxpayers and employees. While the Governor and Legislature have been paying down unfunded pension debt, Glazer is not completely ruling out lower benefits for future workers to ease the burden on taxpayers and keep CalPERS and CalSTRS solvent. Employees will have to look at their pay and benefits, including pensions, and "make their own decisions, if that's a good situation for them," he said. As for whether the state should divest from Russia because of the Ukraine invasion, Glazer says he doesn't think pension board members should make political statements. He says it's a departure from his own past decisions: As student body president at San Diego State University, he pushed for it to divest from South Africa to protest apartheid. “As a controller, I would take the fiduciary responsibility very, very seriously. And that means sometimes setting aside your own personal views,” he said. "Even if you have passion and angst about certain things that are happening in our world, you have to balance that with your responsibilities to get a rate of return for retirees who have that money." In 'bonus time' In addition to questions about assets and needs, CalMatters has been asking candidates some more personal questions so voters can get to know them better. When asked about the hardest thing he's ever had to do in his life, Glazer said it was talking to his siblings about the death of their parents. He said family history shapes how he lives now. His mother died of cancer at age 57 and his father died suddenly of a heart attack at 55. "I thought my life would end at 55," said Glazer, now 64. "So I lived my life from then on. moment with the idea that life is precious. It's not always how you'd like it to be. So take every opportunity, do your best, leave the world a better place, but don't think it will be a long journey nonetheless." This article was originally published by CalMatters .

This article was originally published by CalMatters.

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