An economy strangled by regulation

Andy Caldwell
COLAB Executive Director, guest editorialist, and radio talk show host

I have spent the last 20 years monitoring county government on the Central Coast. I have watched, first-hand, the destruction of our local and state economy, and indicate without reservation that the primary cause is malfeasance by elected officials and the special interests that put them and keep them in power.

During my career, the Board of Supervisors in each of the three counties was alternatively governed by board majorities deemed conservative and progressive.

The conservatives, when they comprised the board majorities, did no harm for the most part, but neither did they accomplish much good. When in the minority, their record could best be summed up as going along to get along.

The progressive majorities did much damage to our economy and also served to set us up for near bankruptcy as they gave away the store to government unions, while they crippled the private-sector economy as they carried out the legislative whims of extreme environmental activists.

Further, the progressives did their best to help elect their own kind to state offices, whereby the state proceeded to also spend us into oblivion, regulate us to death and raid local government coffers to make up their own shortfalls.

Our Central Coast region and California are in serious trouble. The only thing that will save us is a rollback on regulations. I believe the regulatory climate in California is preventing the economy from recovering and growing. We also need serious pension reform and a reduction in taxes to make us competitive again.

California was once known as the Golden State. We had gold. We had oil and natural gas. We had great farm land. We had timber. We had a robust manufacturing and industrial sector.

We still have most of these resources and opportunities for economic growth, but they are off-limits because of environmental regulations.

I am all for clean air and clean water. And I favor a controlled measure of growth, as I want to maintain our rural quality of life. But the level of regulation in this state has reached the point of absurdity.

Couple this government-made recession with the uncontrolled spending for government employee wages, benefits and pensions, and it is no wonder California has accumulated more debt than most states combined.

Consider the economic impacts of the California Environmental Quality Act, which wraps up every project in the red tape of endless and futile analysis and mitigation, and the Endangered Species Act, which encumbers millions of acres of land so it must lay vacant.

Consider the activities of the California Coastal Commission, which would now consider putting cows on a piece of land as subject to a permit for development. Consider the Regional Water Quality Control Board that doesn’t want dirt or water to run off a farm field.

Consider the California Air Resources Board, which has eliminated our ability to build new factories and is slated to force contractors, truckers and farmers into near bankruptcy.

These rules and entities cost the California economy billions of dollars each and every year in lost economic opportunities.

I would offer to swap Gov. Jerry Brown five years of temporary tax hikes he is asking for — not because I believe they are necessary but because he and his fellow Democrats are holding all the cards — in exchange for pension reform and five years of serious regulatory relief from the laws, rules and commissions cited above.

Originally printed in the Santa Maria Times.

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