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Job killers? Not guilty

The governor should think twice before going along with the state Chamber of Commerce's hit list.

May 21, 2008

Every year, the California Chamber of Commerce puts out a list of "job-killer" bills that would supposedly devastate the state's economy. And every year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger takes this list far more seriously than it deserves; in 2007, he vetoed all 12 such bills that made it through the Legislature, and he has signed only three during his tenure. A repeat won't do any good for California.

This year's list, released Monday, contains 33 bills. To be sure, some are turkeys that deserve a gizzard full of buckshot. Most notable on that front is AB 2372 from Assemblyman Joe Coto (D-San Jose), which would impose a personal income tax hike of 1% on people with incomes exceeding $1 million a year and dedicate the money to higher education. Coming on the back of an earlier unwise millionaire's tax imposed by voters, this is a great way to chase wealth out of the state, savage the economy and ultimately reduce tax revenue.

And yet, for every flightless bird on the list, there is an idea soaring on the wings of angels. Some of the bills not only won't kill jobs, they'll add them. Others are vital if the governor wants to meet his own goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The chamber is once again opposing SB 974 from Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), which would impose a container fee at the ports and devote the money to expanding goods-movement infrastructure and replacing pollution-spewing trucks with cleaner models. This bill has struggled to overcome business opposition for years, even though it would increase construction and trade-related jobs and lower healthcare expenses by cleaning the air; the fee, meanwhile, is so small that it would have a negligible effect on the retailers and shippers forced to pay it.

Also attracting the chamber's misguided ire are AB 1065 from Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) and AB 2447 from Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento). Lieber's bill would toughen energy-efficiency standards for new buildings, an important weapon in the state's battle with global warming. The chamber complains that it would cost consumers money, not mentioning that it would ultimately more than make up the difference by lowering energy bills. Jones' bill would reduce the enormous taxpayer costs of fighting fires by making it harder to build homes in areas of extreme fire danger.

The chamber doesn't represent all business in the state, and its legislative agenda often seems dominated by development and energy interests. Consumers and corporations will benefit if the governor approaches its "job-killer" list with a more critical eye this year.

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