Legislature Lacks Clear Commitment to Job Creation

By Senator Mike Morrell
Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Also published at The Press-Enterprise

For eight months a year, elected representatives from all backgrounds and perspectives gather in Sacramento to conduct the people’s business. One issue, however, unites us all: getting the economy up and running to create more and better jobs.

The need to get people back to work is greater than ever. California remains very much in economic recovery mode. While the 7.3 percent unemployment rate may be an improvement, it is still among the highest in the nation and has decreased partly due to an increase in government jobs. Additionally, nearly one in four Californians lives in poverty.

So how do we go about fostering job growth? We provide tax relief and remove bureaucratic hurdles that prevent businesses from starting or expanding. If business owners can’t create jobs and succeed, there are fewer opportunities for everyone to succeed.

On some level, the legislature and governor appear to acknowledge this reality. For example, we recently expanded tax credits for the film and aerospace industries. Although I supported them, I did so with less excitement than many of my colleagues. The credits are good steps and will retain thousands of jobs here in Southern California, but we need to apply this approach across-the-board to businesses of every size and influence rather than just the well-connected.

Token pro-jobs laws like these only do so much and are undercut if the legislature continues to knowingly pass bills that hurt the economy and Californians’ pocketbooks. 

Take the new bag bill that the governor just signed. Stores can no longer provide plastic bags at checkout stands. Customers will either have to bring their own bags or be charged for paper ones. This nickel-and-diming adds up and hurts everyone.

This burden is yet another law of many that mandates fees or drives up day-to-day expenses for Californians – all supported overwhelmingly by the majority party and the governor. There are too many of them.

The big challenge now heading our way is the hidden gas tax, which is slated to go into effect this January. This “tax” – technically a regulatory structure being put in place by the governor’s team – will increase the cost of gas by as much as 76 cents per gallon within five years. For a typical commuter who uses 20 gallons of gas per week, that could mean an extra $790 annually.

But the tax doesn’t stop at the pump. Case in point: consider that goods sold in over three-quarters of California communities are delivered exclusively by trucks. When the price of gas goes up, trucking companies have to charge more to move the freight. Eventually, these costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

A new fee here, a hidden tax there – it’s policies like these that make California one of the most expensive places to live and have earned it the reputation as one of the worst states in which to do business.

One of my greatest concerns is that next year legislative Democrats will again turn their attention toward increasing property taxes by chipping away at Proposition 13. We can’t allow our state to go back to the days when high property tax bills drove Californians out of their homes and discouraged businesses from hiring.

James Madison is credited with saying, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” This observation about government’s power was an apt one for its time and is a cautionary note today.

The principle that a limited government serves the public rather than being served has never needed to be reinforced more than it does now. It’s key to a thriving economy that creates jobs and keeps alive the prospect of opportunity and a better life.