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Harry Sidhu



Anaheim, California, January 21, 2010
By Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Harry Sidhu

It’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” that will get our state’s economy back on track, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared in the opening moments of his seventh and final “State of the State” address before a joint session of the California legislature. And he was right. The entire American economy is fueled by workers with a disposable income to spend on goods and services. Without them, business stagnates and the opportunities to innovate, develop, and expand are lost.

As his remedy, the Governor unveiled his California Jobs Initiative that will foster a business-friendly economy through a program designed to “pump jobs into California by creating or retaining up to 100,000 jobs and providing training to 140,000 individuals to enable them to retain their current positions or compete for higher paying jobs.” That’s a laudable goal, but it misses the mark on two important points.

First, there are already a number of existing federal and state programs that spend money on job training. Nevertheless, since November of 2007, our statewide unemployment rate has steadily doubled. In Santa Ana, Irvine and Anaheim combined, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) tells us that we currently have a 9.4 percent unemployment rate, which means that 152,100 of our residents are out of work. So it’s jobs--right now--that are needed, not more training.

If the Governor goes ahead and implements the $500 million he said he needs to train those 140,000 workers, the problem will be finding the money to pay for those initiatives. That money would be put to better use by easing tax burdens, which would free the private sector to create new jobs.

While the Governor’s proposal for a measure to streamline the permitting of construction projects that already have a completed environmental impact report is a step in the right direction that will certainly create jobs in the building industry, I wish he had taken an even bolder stance and demanded regulatory reform. If we truly want to stimulate the state’s economic climate, we must sweep away those burdensome rules and directives that stifle the entrepreneurial spirit and cause businesses in the other sectors to move out of California.

Lucy Dunn, Orange County Business Council President & CEO, who spent two years as Governor Schwarzenegger’s Director of Housing and Community Development and who continues to have the Governor’s ear on the state’s business climate, recently said that she would like to see the state have more enterprise zones which provide tax credits for hiring the unemployed. As it stands right now, the state currently has 42 such zones in economically depressed areas. Those businesses who set up shop in any one of those zones receive tax credits for each unemployed worker who is hired and remains on the job for a year.

In Orange County, only Santa Ana has been designated as an enterprise zone, and although Anaheim qualified for one, it failed to be included among the 42 zones. “If I were queen of the world, I would make the whole state an enterprise zone,” Dunn said. That’s a proposal I could heartily endorse to jumpstart jobs creation.

There is some bright news, however. As I have mentioned in the past, more retail stores are opening than closing in Orange County and job vacancies are being filled. On top of that, EDD announced that in Orange County the occupations with the fastest growth rate between now and 2016 are network systems and data communications analysts, who will grow by 51.8 percent. Additionally, occupational therapist assistants and medical assistants will increase their ranks by 45.5 and 39.1 percent, respectively.

As an elected official, I will continue to support streamlined processes that encourage economic growth thereby increasing employment opportunities. To make a meaningful difference in creating jobs and stimulating a turnaround, we must voice support for regulatory reform at every level of government while encouraging innovative, visionary action and incentives