The public has long questioned if government creates private-sector jobs. The most honest answer is that local, state, and federal governments often foster the environment that incentivizes or disincentivizes capital investment, business growth, and expanded employment. In many cases, public works projects and public-private partnerships (think school construction, the Martin Luther King Hospital, and the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Line) create jobs because of direct taxpayer investment.
As the state capitol prepares for the last weeks of the legislative session, legislators must determine whether job creation, retention, and sustainable growth are impacted positively or negatively by the remaining proposals. Regardless of the overall merit, these proposals will require intense focus and introspection on behalf of every law maker.
There are a few remaining proposals this session that have forced legislators to face a difficult and important question: does concern for the environment and its degradation merit governmental action that may force negative economic impact or job loss in industries that are intense energy users?
This is a most unfortunate choice. We all want clean air, water, and green space. Most people also want abundant employment opportunities for themselves, their loved ones, and younger workers. During roughly two years in Sacramento, I have tried mightily to advance the public good, consumer protection, public safety, reasonable regulation, local-hire, minority procurement, smart growth, and public health. I, and many colleagues, have also had to make very difficult decisions on well-meaning proposals that might have had negative economic consequences.
It has been my opinion that jobs, training, and education were most important to advance for a South Los Angeles economic renaissance. It takes public and private investment, along with broader healthy economic conditions. California enjoys much better economic circumstances than just a few years ago, and it is the responsible and considerate policy maker who promotes jobs here and jobs now for her or his constituents.
In my case, I pledge to elevate the economic concerns of South Los Angeles and working people across California in public discourse. If environmental mitigation legislation can be a vehicle for that, so be it. However, if pending legislation does not help to stimulate economic growth in our communities by promoting high-wage jobs or supporting current and future resident workers, I put greater importance on the immediate and mid-range economic concerns of working people as proposals are dispensed with in the last weeks of this year’s legislative session.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas is a member of the California State Assembly, chairs the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting and Select Committee on Mental Health. He serves the roughly 466,000 people that comprise the South, Southwest, and West Los Angeles-based 54th District.
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