San Diego Business Journal

What's Partisan About Helping Business?

Why is it that supporting business has to be a partisan issue?

It shouldn't be, of course. Building a strong and healthy business environment , one that is encouraged to create more jobs and a stronger tax base , should be a core issue for every legislator, and every political party, at every level.

Unfortunately, a recent report from the California Chamber of Commerce shows just how far we are from that here in the Golden State.

Each year, the chamber issues a voting record for every state legislator, tracking "bills and votes (that) reflect legislators' attitudes toward private enterprise, fiscal responsibility, and the business climate."

This year, the chamber identified 19 such bills that were voted upon on the floor of the state Senate, and 18 bills in the Assembly. Unfortunately, the voting patterns of San Diego area legislators show a remarkable predictability.

In fact, you can boil it down to this: If you are Republican, you back business; if you are a Democrat, you don't.

Here's how the votes for our local legislators break down:

State Senate:

- Jim Battin, R-Poway, 19-0

- Dennis Hollingsworth, R-El Cajon, 19-0

- Bill Morrow, R-Carlsbad, 19-0

- Dede Alpert, D-San Diego, 4-15

- Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-Chula Vista, 3-16

State Assembly:

- Patricia Bates, R-Oceanside, 18-0

- Shirley Horton, R-Lemon Grove, 18-0

- Jay La Suer, R-La Mesa, 18-0

- George Plescia, R-San Diego, 18-0

- Bonnie Garcia, R-El Centro, 17-1

- Ray Haynes, R-Temecula, 17-1

- Mark Wyland, R-Vista, 17-1

- Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, 3-15

- Christine Kehoe, D- San Diego, 2-16

We wish this voting trend was part of some strange, San Diego area phenomena, but it's not. Only two Democrats (both from Stockton) in the entire 120-person state Legislature had the courage to gives business at least a 50 percent chance , Sen. Mike Machado (10-9 voting record) and Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews (14-4 record).

If you want to see the voting record for the entire state Legislature, it's available at the California Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.calchamber.com. Look for Business Bill Update and click on 2003 Vote Record. It's a sobering list for anyone who wonders why this state seems to have such an unfriendly attitude toward business.

Our new governor recognizes this. Just last Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "The state of California is in crisis. We spent ourselves into the largest budget deficit in the nation. We have the worst credit rating in the nation. We have the highest workers' compensation costs in the nation. Next year we will have the highest unemployment insurance costs in the nation. And we have the worst business climate in the nation."

The California Chamber of Commerce report is not the final word on what is good or bad for California business, of course, but it is a reasonable measure of the attitudes among our legislators toward jobs and business in this state.

With a better business environment, everything we do in this state , from getting rid of the deficit to funding worthwhile programs , gets a lot easier.

Schwarzenegger has his work cut out for him. Let's hope our legislators can put partisanship aside, support business, and help him build California back into the Golden State again.

, John Hollon

Object Lessons in Government

Getting rid of bad government is sort of like killing a vampire. Sometimes, even a stake through the heart won't do the trick.

Case in point: Last Monday morning, minutes after getting sworn into office, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order 1, keeping his campaign promise to repeal the tripling of vehicle license fee.

Monday afternoon, a number of people (including staff from KOGO's Roger Hedgecock Show) started calling the Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Sacramento, looking for answers to questions about paying pending car tax bills and, refunds on those already paid.

They don't get any answers or guidance, however, and inquiring minds are given the phone number for the governor's office and his people reportedly get flooded with phone calls.

Guess what happened next?

Schwarzenegger fires state DMV Director Steve Gourley, replacing him with Chon Gutierrez, the former director of the California Lottery under Gov. Pete Wilson.

There's a lesson in all of this. We'll leave it to you to figure it out.

, John Hollon