Employers exit as Sacramento fiddles
San Diego Union Tribune
By Brian Jones
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Earlier this month, officials in the state of Mississippi took swift action to lure a California company to the Magnolia State.
Members of the Mississippi Legislature – Democrat and Republican alike – set aside partisan differences and joined together to pass a $75 million economic incentive package. The vote was nearly unanimous in both houses of the Mississippi Legislature. The bipartisan vote sealed the deal for San Jose-based Stion Corp. to agree to build a new factory in Hattiesburg.
Working side by side, Mississippi officials seized the opportunity to lure 1,000 jobs, with an average salary of roughly $43,000 per job, away from California, along with $500 million in economic investment.
What makes this story even more painful is the fact that Stion is a green energy company that specializes in the production of solar panels. Something is clearly out of whack when California – the nation’s leader in green technology – is now bleeding green jobs to Mississippi.
Sadly, the Stion example is by no means an isolated case. We learned recently that aerospace giant Boeing will be reducing operations in the U.S. by 1,100 workers. Most of the layoffs will come right here in our backyard at Boeing’s Long Beach facilities. This will mean that a facility that once had 20,000 employees as recently as 1990 will be cut to fewer than 6,000.
Worse, according to the “Business Relocation Coach,” 193 companies moved all or part of their operations out of California in the year 2010, nearly four times the number that did so in 2009.
Companies like Stion and Boeing relocating or downsizing California operations are just the latest examples of an out-of-touch Legislature sitting back and doing nothing while our state’s anti-business climate continues to bleed jobs and opportunity.
In recent years, costly mandates, misguided regulations and high taxes have created a poisonous climate for job creation and retention in California. Employers small and large are having a difficult time keeping their heads above water in our state in the midst of the highest business taxes in the West, the country’s second-worst business climate and the nation’s fifth-worst legal climate.
Chief Executive magazine has rated California as the worst place in the country to do business for five years in a row. When you add it all up, it’s no wonder that California has lost roughly 600,000 manufacturing jobs over the past decade and that more than 2.3 million people remain out of work today.
Yet despite seeing jobs leave the state time and time again in recent months, Sacramento still doesn’t see the writing on the wall. Lawmakers persist in passing costly, big-government policies that hurt employers and job creation. They keep burying their heads in the sand while company after company decides not to expand in California or flee the state altogether.
How many more jobs does California need to lose before Democrats work with Republicans to retain private-sector jobs here and attract new, job-creating businesses to our state?
The only way to get people working again and help the state solve its budget woes is to focus on private-sector job creation. We finally may be starting to see signs that Democrats are prepared to act to improve our state’s business climate. Just last week, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced that he would pursue emergency legislation requiring all state agencies to review current regulations, identifying duplicative or outdated rules for potential revision or elimination.
This is a good first step, but I hope Sacramento Democrats do more than just study. We know that regulations are pushing jobs and opportunities away. Until we work together to suspend or eliminate these costly mandates and regulations, we will continue to see more and more examples of companies like Stion fleeing California for jobs-friendly states.
Jones, R-Santee, represents the 77th District in the California Assembly, covering most of eastern San Diego County.