Chamber’s annual ‘job killer’ bills

Spring in Sacramento brings the annual rites of partisan sniping over a crowded roster of hundreds of pending bills — not to mention the draft budget. Political springtime also means the California Chamber of Commerce announces the annual list of what it labels “job killer” legislation.

The new 2007 list was comparatively long, with 25 pending bills chamber President Allan Zaremberg insisted would harm the state’s global competitiveness by “making California a less desirable place to do business … imposing new mandates and taxes that will stifle investment and job growth and decrease revenue to the state’s coffers.”

Zaremberg is also quick to point out that since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor, “the state has seen a steady increase in new jobs — 850,000 to be exact — and billions of dollars in additional tax revenues.” The chamber’s warning is that this job killer legislation would seriously endanger the rising employment trend.

Among the bills singled out this year are new employer health care taxes as part of the governor’s universal medical coverage proposal; rollbacks of Schwarzenegger’s hard-won workers’ compensation reform; development restrictions limiting new affordable housing; a tax on harbor freight movement in Oakland and Southern California; and restrictions on use of voter-approved transportation funding.

The chamber has been on somewhat of a winning streak at stopping its job killer targets since Schwarzenegger took office. In 2003, ex-Gov. Gray Davis’ last year in office, he signed 11 of the job killers into law and vetoed two. But in 2004, Schwarzenegger vetoed all 10 of the targeted bills. And last year the chamber notched a 95 percent winning record.

Two Bay Area legislators, state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, are named as authors of two listed bills apiece. They are among the six California lawmakers who all wrote two pending bills the chamber hopes to quash.

Legislation submitted by Ruskin would impose a tax surcharge on new vehicle purchases; and end the requirement to consider cost impact when setting “green building” standards. Migden’s bills would substitute card sign-offs for secret balloting in farm union elections; and create a legal presumption of employer discrimination when workers’ compensation claims are denied. State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, also made the list with legislation to ban manufacture and distribution of certain plastic packaging.

The Examiner does not automatically rubber-stamp opposition to every bill the chamber deems a job killer. For example, we suspect that SB 375 might actually help the Bay Area by moving more transportation bond spending into high-density regions instead of politically connected boondocks.

However, the annual Chamber of Commerce job killer list is consistently a valuable tool for spotlighting potentially harmful bills that need serious and skeptical attention.

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