Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Blakeslee: Business climate must be better

California’s 12.3 percent unemployment rate now ranks as third-worst in the nation. Other large, diverse states post much lower rates, which translates to millions of Californians who are unnecessarily unemployed and underemployed.

These are not simply cold numbers on a spreadsheet. Every job loss entails real pain for some family. Employment is a matter of human dignity. Revenues for our schools are down. Families are losing their homes. Those climbing the ladder of success are falling back into poverty. That’s why jobs are the most important issue — at least for me — in the contest to fill California’s 15th Senate District seat in the Aug. 17 election.

The unemployment crisis is a symptom of a profoundly weakened economy. This problem was a long time in the making. California was hemorrhaging high-quality, private-sector jobs long before the current recession.

The Milken Institute recently analyzed manufacturing-sector job losses between 2000 and 2007. They concluded that California lost more than 1.6 million jobs and $75 billion of annual wages.

These losses translate to $5 billion less income tax revenue each year. Without raising taxes a penny, this lost revenue could almost triple the amount we spend on our California State University education system.

The cause of our ills is well-known and much discussed around the country. California is ranked as the worst for business among all 50 states in a 2009 survey by Chief Executive magazine.

Forbes ranked California 50th for business costs. The 2009 California Business Tax Climate Report ranked California 48th. The Economic Freedom Index assessment of regulations, licensing and permitting requirements ranked California 46th in 2008.

The prescription for getting these jobs back to California is straightforward but requires political will.

Tax reform: Our tax treatment of research and development credits, manufacturing investment credits and capital investments must be reformed if we are to compete domestically and globally.

If done strategically, these reforms will produce an explosion of business investment and high-income jobs, which in turn will generate significant new tax revenues for schools and public safety.

Regulatory reform: The myriad maddeningly inefficient state regulatory agencies need to be held accountable to protect our environment and workplace while moving projects forward in a timely manner. Ombudsman functions and one-stop coordinated permitting procedures have been employed in other states with great success.

Higher education: As a former scientist who earned a doctorate in our University of California system, I am passionate about higher education. Our universities and high-tech industries can benefit from closer collaborations that generate new ideas and investments. Creative private-public partnerships can produce breakthroughs in medicine, material science, renewable energy and computing.

Job creation is a key factor distinguishing me from my opponent. During my tenure in the Assembly, I earned “A” ratings from both the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Manufacturing and Technology Association. During that time, I authored numerous bills to promote green jobs in California and co-authored SB 71, the “clean-tech” manufacturing investment credit signed into law earlier this year.

My opponent consistently earned “F” ratings from those same organizations. He supported 155 of 157 bills so bad for jobs that they were identified by the Chamber of Commerce as “job-killer bills.”

I don’t say this as a personal criticism but only as a means of establishing that the voters have a real choice before them when it comes to the question of which candidate will work to bring jobs to California.

This viewpoint is re-printed with permission from the San Jose Mercury News.

Sam Blakeslee is a San Luis Obispo Republican.