California could attract Amazon, but only if it makes big changes

Amazon logo.
Amazon logo. TNS

Three years after Nevada bested our state by luring Tesla’s Gigafactory and the billions in investment and thousands of jobs that went with it, a vastly bigger prize is up for grabs. Will California wear the bridesmaid’s dress again?

Amazon, the Seattle-based online retailer and cloud computing giant, announced it will build a second headquarters somewhere in North America, with 50,000 high-paying jobs going to the lucky city that lands the project.

Amazon’s Request for Proposal makes me think the Golden State misses out.

Amazon wants California’s strengths: cultural opportunities, diversity, transportation infrastructure, and our educated workforce, fueled by amazing public universities such as UC Davis and Sac State. But the good news stops there.

Housing prices are an issue for Amazon. Five of our metro areas make the nation’s top 10 most expensive.

Amazon wants to start quickly, but the abused and manipulated California Environmental Quality Act can add years to a project, with endless, unpredictable lawsuits. Lastly, Amazon wants “stable and business-friendly regulations and tax structure.”

California is the No. 1 “judicial hellhole” state three years running. CEO Magazine ranked the Golden State the worst place to do business for the sixth straight year. California is perpetually in the bottom 10 for business tax climate. We are only stable in our hostility to business.

Gov. Jerry Brown should convene a special legislative session to address California’s business climate deficiencies, specifically:

▪ Tort reform – to lower the legal risk and uncertainty for business.

▪ Tax reform – to give us competitive personal and business tax rates.

▪ CEQA reform – to give businesses time and cost predictability for projects.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants Amazon in Sacramento and these reforms could boost the Capitol City’s chances. Reeling in Amazon would transform Sacramento.

We have a chance to undo some of the damage we’ve inflicted on our business climate and ourselves. But if we keep making it harder for businesses and families to thrive here, I’m afraid I know one state where Amazon won’t deliver.

Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills, can be reached at