By Art Pulaski
Years of budget cuts and shortsighted political decisions have hollowed out our state’s economy. More than 2 million workers are still unemployed. Workers’ wages are shrinking, even as CEOs paychecks get fatter. People no longer have money in their pockets to support local businesses.
Yes, California has taken more than its share of hits in this economy, but we can rebuild an economy of broadly shared prosperity the same way our grandparents created it: by investing in infrastructure that gives our businesses a competitive edge. We can come roaring back by investing in universities that are incubators of innovation and schools that train workers to make products invented in California right here in California. And when workers, not just CEOs, have good jobs, Californians will be working their way into the middle class, not falling out of it.
It’s time to chart a different course on jobs, and California’s unions must lead the way.
Last month the California Labor Federation and the State Building and Construction Trades Council unveiled Labor’s new “Invest in California” plan, which focuses on renewing the state’s commitment to middle-class supporting jobs.
The six-point plan calls for significant investments in areas that support job growth, while at the same time calling for an end to wasteful state spending on corporate tax breaks that encourage outsourcing.
The 6-point “Invest in California” plan includes:
1) Infrastructure: It’s time to invest in repairing and retrofitting the infrastructure that made California great. $9 billion in bonds already sold can, and should, be put to work in shovel-ready projects. By investing public pension funds in infrastructure projects and construction of high-speed rail, we will create jobs and improve California’s competitiveness.
2) Manufacturing: If we invent big ideas in California, we should manufacture them here – that’s why we support helping businesses to manufacture products they invent here. Our plan would speed up businesses’ ability to create jobs without weakening worker protections or environmental standards.
3) Education: California needs the most educated and skilled workforce in the world to compete in the global economy, but budget cuts have put California school funding behind Mississippi, Alabama, China and Korea. We need to restore $18 billion to K-12, community colleges and higher education, and expand and create new campuses to improve access.
4) Revenue: It’s time to raise the necessary revenue to fund education, public safety and other essential services by revamping our tax code so it’s fair. Our plan would put special carve-outs for corporations to the jobs test: no new net jobs, no more tax breaks. When corporations ship their jobs overseas, their tax breaks should disappear.
5) Clean Energy: Our plan would create a clean and green revolving loan fund to help manufacturers to meet AB 32 requirements and create good jobs. By using good union labor to retrofit public buildings and schools, we can capture cost savings using high quality standards.
6) Ending Income Inequality: Economic recovery starts when workers have enough money in their pockets to buy products made in California. Our plan requires companies that receive state contracts, grants, or tax breaks to pay living wages with health benefits, and preserves project labor agreements that build our communities with living wages.
We can pay for these needed investments by restoring fairness to our economy and revenue collection. California isn’t broke; our system is broken.
California is richer than ever, but in the first year of the current recovery, 93 percent of income gains have gone to the top 1 percent of earners, who today pay taxes at a lower rate than when Ronald Reagan was governor. Our wasteful system hands out tax breaks like enterprise zone credits, which have been shown to provide no benefit to the economy. It even gives corporations a tax break for moving jobs out of the state. That must stop.
It is time California worked again for people who work for a living, not just those who can buy tax loopholes in Sacramento.
To learn more, go to www.CaliforniaLabor.org/jobs