Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown released his revised state budget that proposes the elimination of 43 various departments, commissions and task forces in an effort to help close California’s budget deficit. Much of that streamlining will improve efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. However, there is one new department that state lawmakers should actually create in this climate — a new Agency for Economic Development, Job Creation and Competitiveness.

California has the dubious distinction of being one of the few — perhaps only — states without an agency to help compete for and provide assistance to job creating employers. Other states, including competitors like New York, Arizona, Texas and Nevada all have state agencies that focus like a laser beam on economic development. These agencies coordinate efforts to recruit California businesses through incentives, but just as important is their role in helping existing companies within their state to grow and expand by cutting through red tape at the state level.

We had such a department at one time. The California Trade & Commerce Agency was eliminated in 2004 during a previous budget crisis. As we see today, that decision turned out to be wrong. Now, State Sen. Ted Lieu has introduced Senate Bill 892 to revive and create a new agency geared towards the new economy. We applaud Sen. Lieu for this important first step towards growing jobs and tax revenue.

To be sure, making California more business-friendly is more than just creating a new department. It means doing a comprehensive assessment of the assets and liabilities of California as compared to other states and other countries. It also means developing a strategic plan to focus resources on our strengths and eliminate our weaknesses. The department should also spearhead efforts to reform our State’s stifling business regulations. 

As one of the world’s 10 largest economies, California suffers by not having a robust department of economic development and an international trade strategy. With the strength of Silicon Valley, our manufacturing, entertainment and agriculture industries, and the thousands of small businesses that drive our economy, this is an opportunity to make a wise investment of taxpayer money that produces a net benefit. Take action today by joining us in supporting SB 892.