Governing is About Tough Choices

Senator Mimi Walters
California State Senator, 37th Senate District

During the Legislature’s hectic “house of origin” deadline—when each bill that originates in either the Senate or the Assembly must pass out of its respective house or it dies—many bills with sweeping implications for California’s economy come before us. Oftentimes it is easiest to simply vote “No” and move on since many bills are simply bad for hardworking Californians. In the case of Senate Bill 11 (Pavley, D-Agoura Hills), this decision was neither easy, nor was it the best solution to a very real problem.

SB 11 is a case in point because it extends several existing fees that are imposed on California residents, but also provides assistance for many companies that must retrofit their equipment in order to meet the requirements of AB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006). California’s economy would be better off without AB 32 and replaced with a market-based approach that takes into account economic reality. However, the voters upheld a referendum on AB 32 and it is a law we must account for in our decision-making process.

There are several things not to like about SB 11. The bill authorizes extending existing fees for smog abatement, vehicle and boat registrations, and tire purchases. Conversely, SB 11 eases the regulatory burden primarily imposed upon independently-operated gas stations and trucking companies by assisting them in retrofitting their existing equipment so that it is cleaner burning and more efficient. The costs imposed by the related AB 32 regulations are so egregious that a large percentage of these companies, accounting for thousands of California jobs, would either have to layoff much of their workforce or go out of business altogether.

As Californians continue to experience a slow economic recovery, where employers and jobs are moving to more business-friendly states, we had a choice to make. On the one hand, while I believe the SB 11 fee extension is bad policy, I recognize the real-life impacts of our failure to act—the loss of thousands of California jobs.

While it was certainly not an easy decision, it made more sense to preserve the jobs of Californians so that they can continue to support their families. Are there better alternatives? Definitely! But in the current climate in Sacramento, our options are very limited and generally do not favor a healthy economic environment. As state senators we often must weigh the merits of both sides of an issue in order to reach a decision that we believe will be best for our great state. In many, if not most cases, the legislation before us is far from ideal, but it is often the best that can be achieved with so many political and philosophical beliefs to be considered.

It is easy to sit by and play the role of naysayer, opposing anything that does not fit one’s view of how things ought to be. But in order to govern a state as large and diverse as California, it is our responsibility as your elected officials to stand up for the well-being of Californians even knowing that the end product is far from perfect.

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