Bringing jobs back to state

Monday, August 29, 2011

Previously published at the Fresno Bee

Last week, the California Employment Development Department announced more sobering news: Unemployment statewide rose to 12%, and the ranks of the jobless grew by 34,000 during the month of July.

With unemployment in Fresno and Madera counties even higher at 16.7% and 15.4%, respectively, it's no wonder Democrats are now thinking about introducing legislation they claim would help put people back to work.

While I'm glad that my colleagues across the aisle have expressed their recent interest in helping address the dismal job situation in California during these last few weeks of the legislative year, no hastily drafted bill will be able to undo years of job-killing bills and regulations.

These days, even "green" companies are being held hostage by California's confusing web of regulations. During a recent hearing hosted by the Senate's Select Committee on Economic Development and the State Permitting Process, of which I serve as vice chair, we heard from multiple clean-tech companies that expressed frustration with our state's regulatory climate.

In many cases, solar companies and other green-energy producers end up being the target of costly lawsuits based on the state's environmental regulations. Also frustrating are the contradictory, conflicting regulations from local, state and federal agencies that all share oversight over a single project.

Perhaps, then, it should come as little surprise that clean jobs -- often cited as the future of California's economy -- account for a mere 2.1% of all jobs in the state. In contrast, Alaska leads the nation in clean jobs, accounting for 4.7% of all jobs in that state.

If Sacramento is serious about getting our neighbors back to work in any industry, then we must make a fundamental, consistent commitment to making California a better place to do business.

Only when businesses locate here and hire local workers will we start to see the economic turnaround Californians expect, deserve and need.

That's the reason I've introduced multiple bills in the first eight months I've been serving in the California state Senate designed to streamline regulations and jumpstart job-creating projects so California businesses can get back to doing what they do best: stimulating economic growth.

For example, Senate Bill 196 is part of a four-bill reform package my colleagues and I introduced earlier this year to help prevent California's laws and regulations from killing jobs.

SB 196 would require that all proposed major regulations undergo a high-quality economic analysis designed to ensure the regulations California adopts are the most cost effective for the state. These analyses would be reviewed by the University of California system to ensure rigor and accuracy.

This bill would also require state agencies to show that the regulatory approach they adopt is the least costly alternative. If, for some reason, the agency decides to adopt a more costly alternative, it must provide a benefit-cost analysis to show that the benefits of selecting that approach over other equally effective alternatives outweigh the costs.

Finally, SB 196 would authorize the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office to prepare a benefit-cost analysis of any major legislative proposals to allow the Legislature to consider the economic impact before passing any major new laws.

This bill, along with SCA 13, SCA 14 and SB 195, represent the culmination of many months of work to develop common-sense reforms that will help address Sacramento's spending problems, manage our ongoing financial obligations and get people back to work.

Only when we put a laser focus on creating jobs and growing our economy will our state's budget get back on solid footing. Only then will we be able to focus on building a stronger, more sustainable future for our state.