California lawmakers wrestle with 12% jobless rate

Unemployment

Sacramento – — Sacramento

As California’s unemployment rate climbs – the state is stubbornly stuck with the second-worst jobless problem in the nation – leaders at the Capitol are focusing on jobs in the final three weeks of the legislative session.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown named a senior jobs adviser while legislative leaders met to decide what changes in laws they would push to spur employment. They said they will seek to streamline some permit procedures as well as loosen environmental regulations that can slow down new projects.

The proposals have yet to be completed, and some economists say a focus on regulations misses the real problem in the economy – anemic consumer spending – and will do nothing to create jobs to cut into the state’s 12 percent unemployment rate.

Even Brown downplayed the impact California could have in revving up a sputtering economy that is at the mercy of international forces.

“We’ve got the plan Obama has been looking for. And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you, too,” Brown said. He added later, “We’ll do what we can at the state level. The state is a different kettle of fish than the nation. We don’t have the Federal Reserve, we don’t have the instruments of massive fiscal capacity that the United States government has.”

Spurring growth

The governor said long-term investment in education and infrastructure is important, even as the state has slashed spending for public schools and higher education, along with removing barriers to development.

Still, lawmakers and business leaders said they believe making changes that improve the business environment in California will spur job growth.

“Job creation happens on multiple levels. The state’s role is to make sure we don’t do anything that shrinks jobs,” said Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles. Pérez is sponsoring a bill, AB29, that will create a permanent Office of Economic Development to assist businesses that want to locate or expand in California.

In the Senate, leaders are looking at laws to shorten and simplify the process to get permits to start businesses or begin new projects, along with easing some environmental regulations. One bill, SB226, would exempt some projects like the installation of solar panels from the state’s environmental regulations, meaning those projects would not have to undergo review and would be built faster

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