The news this week was not unexpected. Still, it was a blow to Southern California and beyond. For years, we have heard whispers about the problem. Some even spoke out about it, only to be ignored by the media. However, this time it was too much to be ignored.
The news was that yet another company announced it is leaving California. This time it was Toyota, a well-known, well-respected brand that decided it has had enough. Enough of the high taxes. Enough of the overregulation. Enough of the artificially high energy costs. And like that, poof, its headquarters will be gone from Torrance and, along with it, 3,000 jobs will move to Texas.
California’s Legislature has been on a roll lately, passing law after law that make it so hard for manufacturers and other industries to do business that they simply leave. Yet at the same time, legislators pass “targeted” tax breaks for their crony donors in privileged industries, so that campaign dollars from those cronies keep flowing into their already fat bank accounts.
It’s gotten so bad that the California Chamber of Commerce annually issues a list of the most egregious “Job Killer” bills winding their way through the legislative process. This year, 15 have made the list, which will evolve as the legislative process moves forward.
Three of the 2014 Job Killer bills involve costly new workplace mandates while the remaining 12 pile up economic development barriers that stymie job growth. Defeating the latter are of critical importance for those who care about good, middle-class jobs since, at 8.1 percent, California still has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The chamber reports that Senate Bill 1372 would increase the corporate tax rate on publicly held corporations and financial institutions up to 15 percent according to wage differentials across the United States. In addition, it could increase the rate by 50 percent if the firm reduces its workforce in the United States and simultaneously increases its contractors. Now there’s a solution to slow economic growth — raise taxes!
Or, how about Senate Bill 1381? It mandates a California-only label on genetically engineered foods that forces farmers and food companies to implement costly new labeling, packaging, distribution and record keeping for products sold in the state. Moreover, it includes a private right of legal action, increasing litigation on all firms in the supply chain if a product is not labeled properly. Californians have already voted to reject such mandatory labels, this bill attempts to sneak around that decision through costly lawsuits designed to increase legal fees for lawyers.
Surprisingly, even the porn industry is under progressive-liberal attack. While not a chamber Job Killer, Assembly Bill 1576, the “condom mandate,” threatens to drive porn production out of California and take thousands of jobs and $5 billion in revenue with it, says the Free Speech Coalition, an industry trade group.
Sadly and dispiritingly, San Mateo County’s legislators have taken almost every opportunity they could to kill jobs for Californians. While final votes have not yet been taken on the 2014 Job Killer bills, the results of the 2013 legislative session are clear. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, and Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, are miserable failures when it comes to growing jobs and the California economy.
Mullin, whose campaign website claims that he wants to “promote job creation” has a sorry record of voting more than 60 percent of the time for job-killing bills and against economic growth. Gordon lists eight issues on his campaign website, yet jobs and economic growth are not among them. That’s no surprise given that he too voted more than 60 percent of the time for job-killing bills. And Hill claims on his campaign site that he will “work tirelessly to create local jobs.” I suppose that’s correct, if by “work tirelessly” he means voting for job-killing bills more than 60 percent of the time.
Unless the Legislature changes its ways, or we change our elected officials, firms will continue to leave California and strike out for the friendlier climes of Texas. While some may cheer their departure, I’ll mourn for the California that used to be, a place where people from all corners of the globe came for the good jobs that made the American Dream come true for them and their children.
John McDowell is a longtime county resident having first moved to San Carlos in 1963. In the intervening years, he has worked as a political volunteer and staff member in local, state and federal government, including time spent as a press secretary on Capitol Hill and in the George W. Bush administration.