The Bay Area Council was the first major business group to support the new California law limiting emissions of global warming pollution. Now council President/CEO Jim Wunderman is calling on the Bay Area’s unprecedented concentration of powerful elected leaders — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata — to improve the national business climate with five critical but relatively small and inexpensive legislative changes:
Universal Broadband: Delivering wired or wireless broadband service to 95 percent of the U.S. population is a policy goal so acceptable that even President Bush and Speaker Pelosi agree on it. Experts concur that constructing a nationwide broadband service would be comparatively inexpensive and easy. The United States cannot afford to continue being 15th worldwide in broadband penetration.
R&D Tax Credit: The federal Research and Development Tax Credit helped more than 11,000 companies increase technological innovation. It expires at the end of 2007 and Speaker Pelosi should act to make this important credit permanent.
Also, the California Manufacturers’ Investment Credit on taxes for new equipment purchases expired in 2004. California is one of the only states without this credit. With other states constantly striving to pick off California companies, our legislators should reinstate it and help keep good-paying jobs here.
Reform Sarbanes-Oxley: Most Americans have not even heard of the federal Sarbanes-Oxley accounting oversight act of 2002. But the cumbersome requirements of this response to abuses of Enron-type scandals cost both big and small companies nearly 30 times as much as the Securities and Exchange Commission originally estimated. Sarbanes-Oxley could easily be streamlined to continue safeguarding the public without costing corporations an average of 2.55 percent of their revenue.
Retain California Workers’ Compensation Reforms: California approved Gov. Schwarzenegger’s reform of workers’ compensation in 2004. This successfully reined in uncontrolled insurance costs that hurt not only businesses, but also school districts and nonprofits. Interest groups now are quietly working to roll back these reforms and should not be allowed to succeed.
Reform H-1B visa system: In 1997, it took 11 months to fill the 65,000 H-1B visa quota, which permits highly skilled foreigners to work in the United States. This year, it took only two days. Two-thirds of U.S. university doctoral graduates now are foreigners. Why educate valuable graduates and send them away?
Safeguarding American workers from being shut out of these high-tech professional vacancies would be simple. Just create a nationwide Web site where all requested H-1B quota jobs must be posted for 30 days and only American nationals could apply.
These common-sense eliminations of red tape are not corporate welfare. Making such changes could expand our regional and national economy, generating more good jobs for Americans.