Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Green tech essential to California jobs recovery

Californians continue to suffer the consequences of an economy in sharp decline, with more than 2.2 million people out of work.

California’s unemployment rate is almost 50 percent higher than Texas, another border state with a large, diverse population. Making matters worse, businesses and jobs continue to leave for other states.

California is no longer competitive in attracting and retaining employers. Leading the mass departure out of state are manufacturing jobs. Over the past decade, California has lost 600,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs. The recently announced closure of the 4,700 employee New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc auto manufacturing plant in Fremont is expected to also cost roughly 1,000 jobs amongst area suppliers. The statewide loss of manufacturing jobs represents roughly one-third of our state’s industrial economy.

Birthplace of the high-tech revolution, California was long known for innovation and opportunity. New technologies being developed in our state are making a difference in the global efforts to improve our environment.

Sadly, years of burdensome and punitive regulatory and tax policies are driving these green jobs out of the state. According to Chief Executive Magazine’s 2009 survey, California is the least business-friendly state. California has been ranked worst for four consecutive years. The 2009 California Business Tax Climate report ranks California 48th in the nation for business friendliness. Forbes ranked California 50th for business costs and 45th for business environment.

One solar company, Wacker Chemie, decided to build a factory to manufacture solar panels in Tennessee rather than California. Fuel System Solutions relocated its headquarters from Santa Ana to New York. MiaSolé, a solar panel manufacturer based in Santa Clara, is poised for expansion. But observers worry that this employer of several hundred workers will instead expand its operation and add over a thousand new jobs in Atlanta. Scott Solar closed its Roseville office and relocated these jobs to Albuquerque, New Mexico. And citing a supportive climate for renewable companies, Helix Wind Inc, manufacturer of small wind turbines, is looking to relocate and expand its operation to Oregon.

California, without question, should be the world’s leader in renewable energy production, including solar power. It is irresponsible that green tech jobs are being driven away because of poorly designed tax and regulatory policies that discourage California-based manufacturing.

With California’s unemployment rate at 12.4 percent and declining state revenues, Republicans and Democrats must come together to find bipartisan opportunities to get California working again. Protecting and adding these manufacturing jobs is a win-win for all Californians.

That is why I have teamed up with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and nine of my Democratic Assembly colleagues to author legislation to help attract and retain these green tech manufacturing jobs. My bill, AB x8 35, gives the State Treasurer the authority to provide tax incentives to qualified projects that produce the component parts of renewable energy and alternative transportation products. These tax incentives remove a layer of redundant taxation that makes California less competitive than our neighboring states.

This proposal is carefully crafted so it is not a corporate giveaway. Our approach establishes stringent criteria that require companies to first demonstrate that their projects will grow the economy and create jobs before they can be eligible for any incentives.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Schwarzenegger outlined his Jobs Initiative, highlighting this bill as a critical step toward job creation.

By offering green companies these important incentives, we can lure more manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines and alternative fuel vehicles to California.

Just last year, for example, Gov. Schwarzenegger worked with State Treasurer Bill Lockyer to offer these same economic incentives to Tesla Motors in order to successfully lure them away from New Mexico and keep the production of their alternative energy cars here in California.

California must be aggressive in fighting for jobs and implementing common sense policies that make our state a competitive environment where businesses can grow.

Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, of San Luis Obispo, represents the 33rd Assembly District in the California Legislature.