Bay Area Council Blog

3.24.10

Governor Signs Green Tech Jobs Bill

By Jim Wunderman

Today Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 71 (Padilla, D-Pacoima) into law, creating a sales tax exemption for the purchase of green tech manufacturing equipment in California.

In order to compete in the world economy, and to stay true to our goal to be the most innovative place in the world, we must continue to pass legislation like this, which in addition to creating jobs, spurs investment in green tech.

This bill was part of the Governor’s larger job creation package – we congratulate the Governor and the Legislature for their hard work and success on this bill.

Female elementary school pupil being bullied

California Misses Out On First Round of Race to the Top

By Linda Galliher

The U.S. Department of Education announced the list of 16 finalists for the first round of its Race to the Top funds, a list that did not include California. The announcement came as a great disappointment, especially after the Legislature performed “legislative backflips” in the lead up to the January application deadline, passing education reform laws to make the state more competitive for as much as $700 million in federal funds.

States that made the first cut include New York, Florida, Massachusetts and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia. States were chosen based on willingness to improve failing schools using tools such as a data collection, tougher testing standards and teacher training. It is expected that less than half a dozen of the finalists will go on to receive funding in the first round.

With another round of funding coming up in the summer, California will have a second shot at the Race to the Top money. In order to have a chance this next time, the state will have to demonstrate its ability to improve failing schools through additional reforms even before receiving funding. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan hopes this strategy to lure states into the Race to the Top will result in improved education systems even in states that do not receive federal funds.

Missing out on the first round of grant funding is disappointing but is not a closed door. We now have more time, and the challenge, to bring additional reforms to the table for round two. The Bay Area Council looks forward to working with all stakeholders, and our lawmakers in Sacramento, to find the path that will allow us to usher in some much-needed federal dollars and a new era for education in California.

group of confident professional employees in a serious meeting from above

Bay Area’s Job Market Showing Signs of Life

By Jim Wunderman

The Bay Area Council today announced that for the first time in 20 months, more Bay Area companies are planning to increase the size of their workforce than are planning layoffs, signaling a potential job market rebound, according to results of its quarterly Business Confidence Survey.

The responses of the 498 CEO’s and top executives in the nine Bay Area counties surveyed between January 27 and February 18, 2010, show that overall, 20 percent plan to increase their workforce within the next six months while 17 percent expect layoffs, and 59 percent predict no change. These results are in stark contrast to a year ago, when the Survey revealed that only 10 percent of companies were planning to hire, while 42 percent expected layoffs. The last time the Survey recorded a positive job market trend was in June, 2008.

Learn more:

Press Release
Results
Charts

3.1.10

Job Creation Measure held up in Senate Environmental Quality Committee

By Matt Regan

SBX8 42 a bipartisan bill co-authored by Senator Lou Correa (D Santa Ana) and Senator Dave Cogdill (R Modesto) would help spur California’s floundering economy and put thousands of people to work this year instead of two or three years from now.

In a nutshell, this bill would protect from needless litigation, a select number of construction and infrastructure projects, that have completed the rigorous California Environmental Quality Act and been given a clean bill of health.

The CEQA lawsuit is the tool of choice of any disgruntled opponent seeking to halt any new development. The California Environmental Quality Act requires that projects of sufficient scope produce an Environmental Impact Report outlining the potential impacts of their projects and what they plan to do to mitigate those impacts. The EIR process also involves a lot of subjectivity and is therefore ripe for litigation. Anyone with an axe to grind can stall vital new projects for years.

Senators Correa and Hollingsworth are not seeking to bypass or CEQA, quite the contrary, their bill requires that any protected project must first complete the CEQA process and meet with the approval of the appropriate governing or permit issuing body. They are simply asking that once this arduous and expensive process has been completed, and the project in question vetted in public and approved, that construction can start rather than waiting another couple of years for the trial lawyers to repeat the whole process again in a court room.

Business and labor were united this week in Sacramento in support of the bill, yet it remains hung up in Committee, probably destined to die there. I wish I could report that our arguments fell on deaf ears, but the truly sad part of this story is that only two members of the Committee in question were actually present in the chamber when Senator Correa presented his bill.

Opponents of the bill rolled out the same tired arguments that we see any time CEQA reform is discussed; “it’s a slippery slope” “it’s a camel’s nose” “they’ll be strip mining Yosemite Valley next” and the sorriest of them all, “why do we have to sacrifice our environment for short term economic gains?”

This bill is very clear and limited in scope and would do nothing other than kick start environmentally sound, CEQA approved, projects in 2010 instead of 2012 or 2013.

We will continue to advocate for this legislation and for other bills that will help put Californians back to work today.

2.19.10

Bay Area Transportation Projects Get $76 Million

By Michael Cunningham

This week the last chunk of transportation stimulus funds were awarded when U.S. Department of Transportation announced $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant awards for over 50 high-priority transportation projects across the country.  More than $57 billion of projects were submitted to DOT; with only $1.5 billion available for the TIGER program, competition was fierce.  When awards were announced this week, two important Bay Area projects came out in the winner’s circle:

  • $46 million for the Doyle Drive safety reconstruction project
  • $30 million for Port of Oakland’s “Green Trade Corridor” emission reduction project (including electric shore-power for cargo vessels, and a new barge system that connects to the Ports of Stockton and Sacramento)

Congress created the TIGER grant program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to fund transportation projects that “have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area, or region.”  In a departure from typical practice, the TIGER program has no formula component; instead, the Secretary of Transportation was given the full authority to pick the best projects from across the nation.  A similar model was applied to stimulus funds for high speed rail, perhaps signifying that the Obama Administration intends to play a much more hands-on role in guiding federal transportation investments than in the past.

2.8.10

Council Delegation hits Washington on Jobs Agenda

By George Broder

The day after the President released his first budget, a Bay Area Council delegation was at the White House and on Capitol Hill pressing for the quick adoption and implementation of proposals that will deliver new jobs to the state and region.

The timing was perfect for the Council’s second public policy focused trip to Washington, with a “Transportation, Infrastructure and Jobs” emphasis. Click here to see the complete Policy Book, which details Council recommendations for the next Surface Transportation Act, FAA Reauthorization Act, and continued enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In summary, the Council believes that “…federal transportation policy must narrow its focus to a small number of areas of greatest national significance,” that will deliver the maximum benefit to the vasty majority of Americans who live and work in our country’s major metropolitan areas.

Along with Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman, the group was led by Transportation and Land Use Committee Chair Michael Covarrubias, Government Relations Committee Chair Andrew Giacomini, Transportation Funding Subcommittee Chair Stuart Sunshine, and BAC Executive Committee member Andy Ball. Public sector leaders Steve Heminger, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Committee, and Omar Benjamin, Executive Director of the Port of Oakland, were also part of the group.

Meetings on “the Hill” were held with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren, newly elected Congressman John Garamendi (our sole representative on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee), Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio (senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit), and Senator Barbara Boxer.

After a substantive meeting with senior officials at the Department of Transportation, it was over to the White House to see Derek Douglas and Adolfo Carrion, the Special Assistant to the President for Urban Policy and Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, respectively. Derek and Adolfo challenged the BAC to help them devise and drive a national strategy that is precise enough to be effective, with the flexibility to be adapted and successful at the local level. We will be following up on this, with the involvement of the BAC members who went to DC, and others.

2.1.10

After Copenhagen: Climate Action Goes Local

After Copenhagen: Climate Action Goes Local
Developing economies are some of the world leaders in clean technology

By Sean Randolph, President, Bay Area Council Economic Institute
Published on YaleGlobal

The failure in Copenhagen to agree on either fixed targets for greenhouse gas emissions or a rigorous system for monitoring was a setback in the global warming battle. Controversy over the extent of human responsibility didn’t help, but resistance by large emerging economies was the stumbling block. But this shouldn’t deter communities and businesses from pressing on with the actions needed to reduce CO2 emissions.

The fact is, progress is being made in both industrial and emerging economies including China and India. Businesses are embracing new technologies and practices. And sub-national governments are increasingly stepping up to the plate with or without national government support. Global negotiations will remain important, but for the near term at least, the real action will shift to the national and sub-national levels. That’s not such a bad thing, since this is where technologies actually get adopted and where behavioral changes occur.

Read More

1.2.10

Must act decisively and fast to save California

Opinion Editorial by Jim Wunderman
Published in the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times & Tri-Valley Herald

As 2009 closes, the opinion of most Californians is “good riddance.” The year ends with record unemployment figures of 12.5 percent, 25 percent higher than the national average. Other large states with diverse economies like New York and Texas have unemployment rates below average. The year also closes with another record budget deficit looming and more cuts to education and other vital services on the way.

Economists predict a slow recovery for the nation’s economy in 2010, but what about California? Will we lead the nation out of this recession as we have done so many times in the past?

I believe we can. California still has the best and brightest workforce in the world, we still lead the world in innovation, venture capital investment and new technologies. If any place can turn this economy around, it is California.

Unfortunately, it is also true to say that if anywhere in the world, despite its embarrassment of riches, can make things worse, it is California.

A recent national survey of CEOs ranked California the worst state in the nation to do business. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks California 48th in the Business Tax Climate index. A 2009 report commissioned by the governor, titled “Cost of State Regulations on California Small Businesses” totals the cost of regulation to the state at almost half a trillion dollars. This cost amounts to 3.8 million lost jobs, one-tenth the state’s population.

Businesses in California are overtaxed, overregulated and underappreciated, which is why so many are moving to other states. If we are to emerge from our current fiscal mess, a mess that is costing us our position as an economic leader in the country and the world, we must make policy changes to encourage new investment and job creation in California.

Before we step forward, let’s start by looking back and undoing shortsighted policy decisions that have badly damaged California’s economy. This is my wish list for California’s businesses in 2010.

In 1999, California scrapped the 40-hour federal standard for payment of overtime, and instead forces employers to pay overtime to employees once they have exceeded eight hours in any given day, even if they work less than 40 hours a week. This law, combined with California’s incredibly rigid lunch-hour rule, makes California noncompetitive. Employers and employees need more flexibility and less mandates from Sacramento. We need to repeal AB 60, the eight hour day law, and AB 1711, the mandatory lunch law.

It is impossible to total the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) cost to business, because it is so pervasive. One thing is certain: It is a massive anchor on California’s economy. The U.S. already has stringent environmental protections in the National Environmental Protection Act; California has set the bar much higher in CEQA and forces our businesses through lengthy and costly delays. We need to reform CEQA to speed up the review process and give more certainty to business while maintaining our environmental protections.

California has the highest sales tax in the nation and is one of just four states in the nation that does not allow a sales tax exemption for the purchase of machinery used in manufacturing and telecommunications. This puts California at a huge competitive disadvantage and cost us thousands of jobs since the exemption sunsetted in 2004. We need to address our overall taxation structure and reinstate the 6 percent Manufacturer Investment Credit that helped pull California out of the last recession.

We can protect our environment, workers and businesses and prosper again, but we must act decisively and act fast.

1.2.10

Constitutional Convention effort starts 2010 with a bang

On the same day, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an extensive Opinion Editorial, Californians have the opportunity to fix state, by John Grubb, former Council EVP and current Campaign Director for Repair California.

In late December, the Attorney General issued Title and Summary for the Constitutional Convention ballot measures.  This development moves the campaign into its next phase: Statewide signature gathering.  Repair California has until April to collect approximately 1.4 million signatures.  The Bay Area Council continues to support the cause – and was recently given a nod for our efforts in addressing the major concerns of our state when Jim Wunderman was named “California’s Person of the Year” by California politics observer Joe Matthews.

You can access the Title and Summary for the measures below:

Prop 1: “Allows voters to place question of calling a constitutional convention on the ballot.”
Title & Summary

Prop 2: “Calls a limited convention to propose changes to state constitution.”
Title & Summary

Stay tuned for more Constitutional Convention updates.

DC Cherry Blossum2

Must act decisively and fast to save California

AS 2009 closes, the opinion of most Californians is “good riddance.” The year ends with record unemployment figures of 12.5 percent, 25 percent higher than the national average. Other large states with diverse economies like New York and Texas have unemployment rates below average. The year also closes with another record budget deficit looming and more cuts to education and other vital services on the way.

Economists predict a slow recovery for the nation’s economy in 2010, but what about California? Will we lead the nation out of this recession as we have done so many times in the past?

I believe we can. California still has the best and brightest workforce in the world, we still lead the world in innovation, venture capital investment and new technologies. If any place can turn this economy around, it is California.

Unfortunately, it is also true to say that if anywhere in the world, despite its embarrassment of riches, can make things worse, it is California.

A recent national survey of CEOs ranked California the worst state in the nation to do business. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks California 48th in the Business Tax Climate index. A 2009 report commissioned by the governor, titled “Cost of State Regulations on California Small Businesses” totals the cost of regulation to the state at almost half a trillion dollars. This cost amounts to 3.8 million lost jobs, one-tenth the state’s population.

Businesses in California are overtaxed, overregulated and underappreciated, which is why so many are moving to other states. If we are to emerge from our current fiscal mess, a mess that is costing us our position as an economic leader in the country and the world, we must make policy changes to encourage new investment and job creation in California.

Before we step forward, let’s start by looking back and undoing shortsighted policy decisions that have badly damaged California’s economy. This is my wish list for California’s businesses in 2010.

In 1999, California scrapped the 40-hour federal standard for payment of overtime, and instead forces employers to pay overtime to employees once they have exceeded eight hours in any given day, even if they work less than 40 hours a week. This law, combined with California’s incredibly rigid lunch-hour rule, makes California noncompetitive. Employers and employees need more flexibility and less mandates from Sacramento. We need to repeal AB 60, the eight hour day law, and AB 1711, the mandatory lunch law.

It is impossible to total the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) cost to business, because it is so pervasive. One thing is certain: It is a massive anchor on California’s economy. The U.S. already has stringent environmental protections in the National Environmental Protection Act; California has set the bar much higher in CEQA and forces our businesses through lengthy and costly delays. We need to reform CEQA to speed up the review process and give more certainty to business while maintaining our environmental protections.

California has the highest sales tax in the nation and is one of just four states in the nation that does not allow a sales tax exemption for the purchase of machinery used in manufacturing and telecommunications. This puts California at a huge competitive disadvantage and cost us thousands of jobs since the exemption sunsetted in 2004. We need to address our overall taxation structure and reinstate the 6 percent Manufacturer Investment Credit that helped pull California out of the last recession.

We can protect our environment, workers and businesses and prosper again, but we must act decisively and act fast.