September 27, 2023
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California must end war on businesses


We’ve had the war on women. And the war on immigrants. Is the war on business, next?

That’s a fair question raised by many, including Ventura employer General Magnaplate Corp., which is closing after settling with the Environmental Defense Center over charges it polluted the Santa Clara River.

In a statement, the company said it was leaving California over environmental issues, i.e., the lack of a “business -friendly environment.”

The company cited workers comp costs, rising regulatory rules and “predatory citizens groups and their law firms” as it shifted production to New Jersey and Texas after 36 years in the Golden State.

Add to the General Magnaplate departure a flurry of apparel makers in the wake of California’s new minimum wage law, the loss of CKE Restaurants’ headquarters in Carpinteria and the stream of manufacturers moving out of state.

Our conclusion is that there is an emerging war on business in California that is driving out the jobs that provided a middle class living for urban families and provided a way up the economic ladder toward self-sufficiency.

We have argued in these pages that California’s businesses are very good at adapting to higher wages, a creaky bureaucracy and complex work rules. That goes with the territory of operating in a place where the climate is ideal and some degree of environmental regulation is necessary to preserve our quality of life.

But the war on business goes beyond the necessities of life on the Central Coast. It is driving our region toward a place where there is a very small group of very wealthy people and a large segment of the population living on survival wages, government subsidies or both.

We can begin to find evidence of the problem in unemployment data which shows the lowest workforce participation rate since the 1970s. The most plausible reason is that older, middle-income workers nearing retirement age prefer to quit the workforce rather than accept a low-wage job.

If we thought it would do any good, we’d call on the governor to create a new initiative on California competitiveness to root out excess regulation and raise the bar for environmental litigation by unrelated third parties.

With the Silicon Valley booming, unemployment in the Bay Area at historic lows and the world turning to Facebook, Google and Tesla as our new champions, it’s easy to overlook what’s happening to the other 99.9 percent of businesses.

We’re not sure that the administration, or anybody in Sacramento, really gets it that there is a war on business that is destroying the entrepreneurial spirit that once made California great.

Build north county jail

Memo to Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors: Stop dragging your feet and greenlight the new jail.

Another persistent and annoying theme in regional government is that Santa Barbara County will spend millions on a new office building on the South Coast without blinking an eye while a major project in the North County gets scrutinized to the last paperclip.

Sheriff Bill Brown has had an uphill fight with the proposed $96 million North County jail, despite the fact that some 80 percent of the funding comes from a state bond issue. The price has gone up recently by around $10 million but he’s been warning about the potential for rising costs for years.

Time to build, baby build.