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California needs a change

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POSTED February 28, 2010 1:59 a.m.
Let’s be honest, the economic numbers for San Joaquin County are not pretty. Our unemployment rate is at 17.1 percent, up about 4 points from last year. According to an Associated Press study released in early December, San Joaquin County ranked as the eighth most economically stressed county in the country as measured by unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosure rates. In the study, a county is generally considered stressed when their score exceeds 11: San Joaquin County scored a whopping 22.92.

The only way to get California and San Joaquin County back on track is to make California more business friendly and encourage job creation with incentives including lower taxes and fewer regulations. We must make California competitive with neighboring states. From Lodi to Stockton to Tracy, state regulations are hamstringing our local economies.

For starters, a recent study commissioned by the California Small Business Advocate found that the total cost of regulation to businesses in the state is roughly half a trillion dollars and deprives the state of about 3.8 million jobs – about a tenth of California’s total population.

Personally, as a small business owner reliant on trucking, I find AB 32 especially concerning. For those of you that don’t know, AB 32 was a bill signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006 that required the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, a roughly 25% reduction under business as usual estimates.

A report released by the California Small Business Roundtable focusing on AB 32’s effect on California businesses found its implementation could cost the state more than a million jobs. That same study calculated that AB 32’s fiscal impact could exceed $100 billion. How can the leaders of a state wallowing in the worst financial circumstances since The Great Depression go ahead with such onerous mandates?

In my case, the more money I have to spend on meeting unreasonable regulations, the less money I have to reinvest in my company. Given our county’s woes, any additional money business owners like me can spend locally would really help improve the county’s weak economic outlook by helping my business partners and my customers.

I love California’s rich environment just as much as the next person and consider the state’s natural beauty one of our irreplaceable assets. However, we must strike a balance between preserving our environment and ensuring California’s economy stays competitive with neighboring states. Now is not the time to increase regulation and red tape for businesses that can ill afford them.

Of note, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has been out front in calling for a one-year moratorium on the implementation of most of AB 32’s rules. She believes the last thing California can afford at this time of terrible economic hardship are new rules, the impact of which have never been fully analyzed. This moratorium will give California time to measure the true cost of AB 32 implementation and allow for better coordination with pending federal legislation.

Like Meg says, “it’s time to bring some common sense and balance back to California’s regulations.” Protecting the environment and creating jobs is not mutually exclusive. Meg understands this and it is for this reason I am supporting her campaign to become the Republican gubernatorial nominee.

Too often we’ve seen what happens when we entrust our state government to the same Sacramento insiders year after year. It is time for a change. Meg is the only candidate running with proven leadership abilities that has created thousands of jobs, run complex organizations and managed large budgets.

California cannot continue down a path of double-digit unemployment rates and multibillion dollar deficits if it wants to regain its reputation as an economic powerhouse. If we elect Meg as our next Governor, I have no doubt that she will return California to what it once was: a place of golden optimism and ripe with forward-thinking innovators. We need to bring the pride back, to be able to proudly declare: I am a Californian.

Steve Anthony is a small business owner and the San Joaquin County Chair for the Meg Whitman for Governor 2010 campaign.

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