Editorial: ‘Streamlining’ smacks of favoritism

In his final State of the State address, Gov. Schwarzenegger got this absolutely right: California’s top priority should be “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The state’s unemployment rate of 12.3 percent is abysmal, and has created more human misery and hopelessness than we’ve seen in many, many years.

Yet as badly as the state needs jobs in every sector, we have serious concerns about the governor’s proposals to put Californians back to work.

On paper, his plan to invest $500 million in job training sounds promising. But with the state facing a $20 billion deficit, how will that program be funded? And will there be any jobs available for those who are trained?

Far more questionable than the training program, though, is the governor’s plan to “streamline” the permitting process for certain construction projects.

The governor wants to declare some large, yet-to-be-identified projects off-limits to lawsuits filed on environmental grounds — thereby creating more construction jobs.

That’s a worthy goal, but bypassing the judicial process would also tie the hands of community activists and environmental groups that often use the courts as a last resort to make their case against controversial projects.

Schwarzenegger didn’t provide details of his “streamlining” proposal, but according to the Los Angeles Times, the governor wants his administration to select about 20 large projects that would be protected from litigation.

We don’t like to see worthy projects put on indefinite hold by lawsuits. (The Dalidio Ranch project comes quickly to mind.) But singling out particular projects for special protection smacks of favoritism.

If judicial review is too lengthy, convoluted and cumbersome, it should be reformed. But those reforms should be applied across the board — not to select pet projects the state deems too big to fail.

Trying to create jobs by exempting specially chosen projects from court challenges is blatantly unfair.

The Legislature should soundly reject this proposal and explore more even-handed ways to put Californians back to work.