The following is an account by Lori Tillery, the economic development manager for the city of San Bernardino, of a “legislative day” conducted by representative from the Inland Empire. From the San Bernardino Sun:
It’s obvious that the pressure to cut state spending is wearing on our legislators. During a recent trip to the State Capitol it was clear that the tug of war to keep or cut programs is creating a great deal of tension.
Legislators, businesses and special interest representatives alike are frustrated by the inability to come to an agreement on what needs to be done.
Representing the San Bernardino Valley Enterprise Zone, I travelled with local zone businesses to share with legislators the importance of the program on rebuilding the economy and creating jobs. The enterprise zone program offers businesses in designated areas tax credits for hiring disadvantaged workers and making capital investments. It plays a vital role in creating economic activity and a better business climate.
During the trip we met with legislators and staff on both sides of the enterprise zone debate. It was disappointing that in some cases we encountered prejudgments and apathy. It seemed that some legislators were standing along party lines, instead of listening to the everyday people who utilize such programs and making decisions based on logic. Our legislators should be making decisions based on what is right for getting California back on track and supporting those programs that are important to getting us there.
In order to grow the economy, we have to nurture businesses so they can create jobs, increase tax revenues and improve struggling communities. The enterprise zone program is helping businesses better their ability to hire and allow them to retain workers. It is the only program incentivizing businesses, big and small, to take the risk to make pro-growth and hiring decisions in today’s difficult economic times.
While meeting with some legislators it was clear that enterprise zone program would fall victim to services they felt residents want and need. I too feel that some public programs such as education and services for the developmentally disabled are important to maintain. However, in order to pay for all the services that Californians seem to want, we have to grow our economy and the number of employers and jobs. Without jobs the state won’t have the tax revenue to provide any public services.
The state is living beyond its means and cuts have to be made. Our priority should be placed on those programs that significantly impact the general welfare of the state.
Legislators often underestimate the importance of business and fail to see the devastating condition of the business climate. Employers are leaving by the hundreds to more business-friendly states that lure them with lower costs and great incentive packages. Doing business in California is expensive and cutting the program will only increase costs for employers and force them to consider relocation. It will also leave businesses with less for payroll and hiring.
Eliminating the enterprise zone program will injure the state’s poor business climate and lead to longer hiring freezes, continued job losses and increased need for public assistance. At a time when the state unemployment rate is hovering around 12 percent, we need to encourage businesses to turn those collecting unemployment insurance into productive workers and tax payers.
Residents receiving public assistance or have been unemployed for long periods are considered disadvantaged workers and will qualify businesses for the program’s hiring tax credit. By providing businesses a small return on investment for hiring a disadvantaged worker, we can reduce unemployment and lessen the cost of public aid.
California needs businesses to create and retain jobs. More than ever, the enterprise zone program is a key element in bettering the job climate. We urge legislators to allow the enterprise zone program to continue to generate jobs and grow businesses in some of the most economically devastated communities in California.