Rebuilding the Middle Class

Neel Kashkari
Former Republican Gubernatorial Candidate

When Jerry Brown was first elected to the governor’s office, it was pretty good to be a middle-class family in California. Back then, California ranked 24th in jobs, we had the 11th most educated workforce and we ranked in the middle nationally in terms of poverty.

Now, Gov. Brown is running for an unprecedented fourth term based on his decades of experience – after all, no one has had more influence on California over the last four decades than he has – but his legacy is the destruction of the middle class of California.

Jobs and opportunity have literally disappeared for millions of Californians. Today, California ranks 47th in jobs, 48th in workforce education and 1st in the nation in poverty. Such a slide downwards is hard to comprehend, but it’s sadly true and devastating for millions of families.

The good news is that we know how to rebuild the middle class. This week I unveiled my bold jobs plan that will urgently kick start growth so we can put people back to work. We must move quickly to make major policy changes in four key areas: manufacturing, water, natural resources and regulatory relief.

Recently, Tesla – a great California company – announced its plan to invest more than $4 billion and create 6,500 jobs at its new “gigafactory.” While Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are competing for those jobs, California isn’t even being considered. I don’t blame Elon Musk for making prudent business decisions. I blame decades of failure in Sacramento for making California so unattractive for jobs and investment.

We don’t need to out-Texas Texas in order to lure manufacturing jobs here, but California does have to be competitive. That’s why my jobs plan offers tax relief for companies that open new manufacturing facilities in California and for companies that move here and bring at least 100 jobs. These facilities – which would otherwise go elsewhere – will provide a huge boost to local economies and create good, high-paying jobs.

With nearly 40 percent of Central Valley jobs tied to agriculture, the state’s record-setting drought – and, even more notably, the state’s lack of preparation for the drought – threatens thousands of jobs. Yet instead of moving urgently to build more water storage, Gov. Brown is focused on building a $67 billion high-speed rail project that Californians don’t want and can’t afford.

The current drought certainly won’t be California’s last, so we must begin building more storage immediately. That starts by canceling the “crazy train” and asking voters to instead approve a bond measure that will not only fund new storage facilities, but also help ensure that existing reservoirs are operating at full capacity.

One of California’s greatest potential job creators is in the oil and gas industry. Although Gov. Brown has feigned some action on fracking, the truth is that California’s natural resources aren’t currently being leveraged to create good jobs. Texas’ oil production is up 77% since Brown took office. California is up a paltry 3%. His empty words haven’t created jobs.

Estimates show that tapping into California’s Monterey Shale in a safe, environmentally conscious way could yield as many as 2.8 million new jobs – including in regions with some of the state’s highest unemployment. That also means billions of dollars in new revenue for the state.

Unfortunately, the cumbersome California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process stymies job creation at almost every turn, which is why my jobs plan reforms CEQA so small businesses – and not just legislators’ pet projects – can get the benefit of expedited reviews.

To be clear, there is a place for smart regulations in our state – but the “gotcha” regulatory complex of Sacramento hinders job growth in every sector of our economy. By implementing a 10-year mandatory regulatory sunset and review process, we can ensure that our state’s regulations are still working as intended and are supporting – not inhibiting – job growth.

There is so much we can do to create good jobs and put people back to work. Gov. Brown has not been willing to do this hard work – but with new leadership in Sacramento, we can absolutely rebuild California’s middle class. We must move urgently.

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