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Senator Steinberg Unveils Democratic Jobs Package

From the Sacramento Bee:

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today unveiled a Democratic plan he said would create an estimated 140,600 to 197,600 jobs in California.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the Democratic Caucus in the Legislature is introducing 27 bills that are part of an employment plan “that is real, not partisan, not hype.”

He said every measure to be introduced can be approved with a majority vote, and that the jobs-creation ideas could have a “multiplier effect” by creating even more jobs.

“I think people want to see something tangible,” Steinberg said.

Among the proposals:

• — A fee stabilization bill for California’s higher education systems that would set a 5 percent cap on tuition fee hikes in any given year and require students to be given an estimated cost schedule for what it will take for them to finish their degrees.

• — A bill to promote the Employment Development Department’s “work-share program,” which allows hard-hit companies to keep some employees on at reduced salaries with the EDD makes salaries whole in anticipation of an economic recovery and re-hiring.

California companies are not participating much in this EDD program, according to Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who accompanied Steinberg and is author of this bill. The state of New York promoted its program last year, increasing business participation by more than 500 percent and reducing the number of workers needing full unemployment benefits.

• — A bill to restructure the furlough polices imposed by the governor to save money. The bill would exempt employees at the Franchise Tax Board, the State Board of Equalization and those in jobs funded at least 95 percent by sources other than the General Fund.

Steinberg hopes to revive a bill that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed last year requiring a mandatory level of renewable energy to be purchased inside California to help create jobs. The bill last year was based on a 33 percent renewable energy goal for public and private utilities by the year 2020. Last year’s proposal would have limited renewable energy credits purchased outside California to more than 25 to 30 percent of the renewable total.

The governor vetoed the bill, saying it could increase energy costs, but Steinberg said he plans to try to convince the governor to work with legislators on reviving a version this year he estimates could create 20,000 jobs.

Other proposals include:

• — A bill to fast track renewable energy projects eligible for stimulus funds. At least 11 projects are waiting for permits from state energy agencies.

• — A bill to streamline obtaining multiple permits to start businesses by starting “one-stop” permit centers through Cal-EPA. Such agencies existed in the mid-1990s to help speed up business and job creation during a an economic downturn.

• — A bill to grant a 5 percent bid preference to a company that can certify that 90 percent of employees on a government contract will be California residents. In an average year, California spends nearly $35 billion on service and consulting contracts.

Some of the bills would authorize the spending of federal funds and bond money for projects already on the books:

• — A high-speed rail bill would authorize investing $2.25 billion in recently granted federal funds to develop such a system in California, creating an estimated 50,625 jobs.

• — Two bills would authorize the state to spend $773 million in federal Qualified School Construction bonds to build schools in 43 school districts, creating an estimated 11,400 jobs.

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