Keys to budget solutions

Cameron Smyth Commentary, Right Here Right Now

Last week, the state’s Employment Development Department released data showing that California’s unemployment rate stood at 9.3 percent for the month of December – our highest in almost 15 years.

Unemployment is up almost a full percentage point from November, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming months. This data underscores the pressing need for a statewide economic stimulus plan that promotes job creation and investment in California.

Although taxes and spending cuts seem to be the state budget buzzwords, economic stimulus is equally vital in addressing California’s budget problems.

More companies investing in California means more people working, more people buying products, less demand for expensive social services and more tax revenue for the state.

We simply cannot sit back and allow our state to lose tens of thousands of private-sector jobs every month and we must not let families to suffer any longer.

Our economy is in freefall and it’s time for the Legislature to take action to help rescue the economy and get people back to work.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the film and television industry that provides jobs for so many local residents.

With other states offering substantial tax incentives, we are seeing a mass exodus as feature film production flees California for the friendlier tax climates of New Mexico, Louisiana and even New York.

In order to keep California’s signature industry thriving here in our backyard, the Legislature needs to take steps to make California competitive again.

Any incentive package that includes the film industry would have a direct impact on Santa Clarita, which already offers a lower-cost alternative to filming in Los Angeles. I’m looking forward to meeting with local leaders to discuss this situation and potential economic stimulus solutions that I can push for in Sacramento.

What does this mean for our state and our community?

It means lowering the costs of doing business and suspending the mandates and red tape that are the main reasons why the state unemployment rate is 23 percent higher than the national average.

It means encouraging fiscal responsibility instead of raising taxes on hardworking families. It means offering incentives for companies to invest in California and put people back to work.

Already this year I have introduced Assembly Bill 150, which aims to stimulate the economy while encouraging the use of energy-efficient products. AB 150 would make every April 24 a state sales tax “holiday” for the purchase of products that carry the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR designation.

With a number of major retailers closing their stores in recent months, providing incentives for retailers to stay in business is more important than ever. AB 150 allows us to address two serious issues – economic stimulus and energy efficiency – in the same bill.

While the specifics of a stimulus package have yet to be ironed out, there are some areas where Republicans and Democrats have found common ground.

We have identified $6 billion to $8 billion in common budget savings which, if implemented immediately, would help to get us through the impending cash flow crisis and make it easier to balance next year’s budget.

Passing these agreed-upon solutions is an important first step, and would help create the momentum needed to make other tough choices to get the deficit under control and the economy turned around.

As we continue budget negotiations, economic stimulus and job creation will be top priorities for me and my Republican colleagues.

Between a statewide stimulus plan, and the national economic stimulus being pushed by President Obama, I’m hopeful that California’s economic outlook will soon improve.

Getting people back to work and stimulating our economy will put California in a better position to address our state’s budget problem next year, and for years to come.