For the past several years, Sacramento has been focused almost exclusively on the state budget crisis.  Ignored
for the most part has been how to deal with California’s unemployment rate,
currently second highest in the nation.  Except in isolated instances,
policymakers have failed to address the issue of job creation and
expansion.  That’s what makes Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s recently issued
“Economic Growth and Competitiveness Agenda for California” a sober assessment of the challenges facing
California and worthy of discussion.

From an international trade perspective, imports and exports through our ports generate hundreds of
thousands of trade related jobs in California.  International trade is a
critical component of the overall economic health of California.  However, because of California’s inability to build major
infrastructure projects, California’s role as a gateway for trade is
threatened as alternative gateways are being developed throughout North

The Lt. Governor was right when he stated “Onerous and inconsistent regulations, slow bureaucracies, and
misaligned policies at the federal, state and local levels present real
barriers to the speed and agility needed to compete in the global economy…
California must also bring its cumbersome licensing and regulatory processes
into the 21st century.”

Nowhere is this more self-evident than in Southern California where it took over 15 years from inception to completion
just to finalize an environmental review and associated permits to modernize an
existing marine terminal.  While regulators were dickering, during that
same time period cargo terminals were conceived, planned, permitted, constructed
and operational  in States like Florida, Texas, Washington, Alabama, Virginia and in British Columbia,
Canada.  Expansion of the Panama Canal went from concept to a massive multi-billion dollar project on the
verge of completion.

While construction of infrastructure in
California is now being measured in geologic terms, by comparison, investment
and construction of intermodal and logistics facilities continues to move
forward in East and Gulf coast states at a rapid pace.  Global supply
chains continue to evolve and adapt, with California becoming a passive, almost
resistant observer to this changing world.

California’s state and local budgetary
problems will only be solved within the context of a vibrant economy – one that
is expanding and creating opportunities for all.  That is something most
agree upon.  The hurdle to overcome, as pointed out by the Lt. Governor,
is whether policymakers and the private sector- all of us- have the political
courage to honestly debate and take concrete action on the issues raised in his
document.   His proposal
comes at a critical time for California.  It’s time to move forward.