Soapbox

Need to improve California’s business climate? Good luck with this Legislature

The Discovery Museum Science Center in Sacramento shows an Aerojet Triton II propulsion engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. is moving or losing 1,100 jobs from Rancho Cordova, where it has been in operation since 1951.
The Discovery Museum Science Center in Sacramento shows an Aerojet Triton II propulsion engine. Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. is moving or losing 1,100 jobs from Rancho Cordova, where it has been in operation since 1951. Sacramento Bee file

Bravo! The questions raised in The Bee’s editorial, “A factory closes, and California seems to shrug” (April 13), are the right ones. I’m afraid, though, based upon my time in the Legislature, nothing will be done. You see, our state policymakers do not have an economic development ethic.

Ask any business to rank the challenges of doing business in California and most will tell you that high taxes are a problem but our regulatory burden is the worst. You will not hear that we should have no regulations, but in California we carry the excessive burden on business to an art form.

So what does an economic development ethic have to do with this? Well, almost all regulations are created to protect the environment, workers or consumers. The burden of almost all regulations falls on businesses, and many times on private nonprofits and local governments. And there isn’t anything wrong with that – as I implied, this is not an anti-regulation argument.

The question is, when legislating and promulgating regulations, is the burden of compliance given equal weight to the benefits bestowed to that being protected? Put another way, given the reality of unintended consequences, if a regulatory approach is to run the risk of erring on the side of over-protection and excess burden vs. under-protection and lesser burden, what path would the legislator take? I will tell you from experience, the majority of our legislators will have to admit to the former path. That is not an economic development ethic.

That is not to say when untended consequences are recognized nothing should be done. But the political reality is that it would be far easier to balance a regulation to correct an under-protection than it would be to reduce protections that have been provided.

Unless our state policymakers develop a true economic development ethic, I’m afraid the blueprint that your editorial calls for will never make it to the drafting board.

Roger Niello is former president of chief executive officer of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, and a former assemblyman. He can be contacted at rwniello@niello.com.

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