Well, the litany of grievances was constrained to 3 hours but most panelists indicated they could go on for days about the negative shift in California’s business climate over the past decade.
Solutions? Not many. While several referred to the growing anger and activism of business owners, the prevailing majority legislative climate precludes any real progress unless or until people get really fed up. They recommended a cessation of new regulations, at least until we’ve figured out what the current regulations say. They cautioned our Legislators that California doesn’t necessarily have to take the lead in everything – especially in job-killer legislation and extreme and excessive environmental regulation. They pleaded for no new taxes – against either businesses or individuals. In fact there was some agreement on eliminating personal income taxes and reducing sales tax applied across a broader base including services as a way to stabilize state revenue while reducing the overall tax burden.
Using Texas as a model, they cited the lack of personal income tax and a part-time legislature which has led to a stable housing market and an expanding business climate. Some businesses relocating to Texas have claimed up to 50% reductions in business costs, regulatory burden, more affordable employee housing and a more cooperative and friendly state structure. It’s all about the ROI and California just doesn’t offer that incentive anymore. We have the talent and the innovators. 3 of every 5 patents issued in this country still originate in California. We are still the drivers of the nation’s economy and business – but we are fast losing that edge and doing nothing about it, or maybe even exacerbating it.
Finally, at the risk of creating yet another state level bureaucracy, Vranich suggested a Business Protection Agency. To be run by business people who have actually run businesses and met payrolls and understand the impacts and unintended consequences of the legislation and regulation that routinely plops in steaming mounds from the bowels of Sacramento. This group would have final say-so on anything that would ultimately impact businesses and would have the power to modify or reject anything that would cost more jobs than it would create.
Will anything be accomplished by this summit? Not likely. But it gave our Legislators a chance to hear directly from those most impacted by the current business climate in our state. But as they said, the people who really need to hear this message (i.e. Democratic Legislators), to understand the impact of their actions, are the ones least likely to listen or to understand what they are hearing. Until people wake up and vote with their wallets, California individuals and businesses will continue to vote with their legs and take their business elsewhere.