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Governor Schwarzenegger spotlights jobs in visit to San Luis Obispo

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lobbied Monday in San Luis Obispo for a set of bills he says will create more jobs by assisting California businesses in hiring and training qualified employees.

Schwarzenegger, joined by state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, who is Schwarzenegger’s nominee for lieutenant governor, toured REC Solar, a solar installation firm, before discussing the legislative package designed to create or preserve at least 100,000 jobs.

“Here is the perfect example of what is good for the economy and also good for the environment,” said Schwarzenegger, adding that his legislative package would help companies such as REC Solar expand throughout the state.

REC Solar CEO Angiolo Laviziano said that it was the governor’s vision on solar technology that encouraged him to bring his business to California in 2005. Since then, he said, the company has grown from 35 employees to almost 500.

Laviziano said the legislative package the governor announced Monday will help him continue to expand the business as he works to hire an additional 200 employees in the coming year. “The most important thing for us is to bring our economy back as quickly as possible,” Schwarzenegger said.

Dubbed the California Jobs Initiative, the package of five bills to be put before lawmakers was previewed in Schwarzenegger’s Jan. 6 State of the State speech.

The plan’s main provisions call for a $3,000 reimbursement for employers who hire unemployed Californians, as well as reimbursement for the cost of job training for employees who were unemployed, underemployed or threatened with layoff.

“We want to put every Californian to work that is willing to work,” Schwarzenegger said.

Those two incentives are designed to save an employer up to the equivalent of what it would pay for an employee in state taxes in a year, according to an announcement from the governor’s office.

The program would also provide training for up to 140,000 individuals, intended to help them qualify for better jobs.

Mike Manchak, president and CEO of the Economic Vitality Corp. of San Luis Obispo County, said the proposed legislative package “is about making the state of California business-friendly — it is a bold move and a direction that the state needs to go. We need to support this because we will benefit from it.”

Manchak said that while it is impossible to know how much of a direct impact Schwarzenegger’s proposed bills will have on local businesses, it will help to recruit and maintain business in San Luis Obispo County.

“It is vital to help companies grow and expand and feel welcome here,” Manchak said. “If not, they will go elsewhere.”

Other provisions include an extension of the home-buyer tax credit, to encourage homeownership, and eliminating sales taxes on “green tech” manufacturing equipment as an incentive to boost investment in that part of the economy.

Another provision of the program would streamline projects that have already completed environmental impact reports, but that are delayed by lawsuits challenging those reports.

Schwarzenegger’s package also includes provisions that would change rules for class-action and product-liability lawsuits against businesses and seek a cap on punitive damage awards.

The program would be funded by a loan from the Unemployment Compensation Disability Fund, which currently has enough surplus to pay for it after covering claims, according to the governor’s office.

Maldonado said getting the bills approved by the Legislature will depend on the focus being put on the jobs it will create, not politics.

“As long as the focus remains on jobs, we are going to get this done,” he said. “If the focus is on other things, we won’t. It is time to work together and get this moving.”

Reach Annmarie Cornejo at 781-7939.

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