California is one of the most environmentally progressive states in the country.
Too often though, our elected officials have tried to achieve environmental progress through policies that come at the expense of California businesses, especially those that create manufacturing jobs. As any business leader in Southern California can tell you, we spend a lot of time opposing draconian over-regulation, which harms the families and small businesses who are already struggling to get by.
There are good programs designed to help reduce air pollution and improve public health that the business community can support. Yet, our leaders in Sacramento have found a new roadblock that could stall direct economic benefits to California consumers, by inserting unnecessary and vaguely-worded labor requirements into a successful rebate program that provides significant environmental dividends.
The state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) is a program that supports California families who choose clean vehicles. CVRP participants can get a rebate up to $7,000 when they purchase a new zero-emission vehicle.
As business leaders, we support this incentive-driven approach. Programs like this support manufacturers that are building eligible clean cars and creating manufacturing jobs in California, while also supporting our elected leaders’ goals to reduce our carbon footprint.
However, during the 2017-18 state budget negotiations, the Legislature inserted language requiring the Air Resources Board and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to create a protocol for certifying that manufacturers participating in CVRP are “fair and responsible in the treatment of their workers.”
Ensuring that workers are treated fairly and safely is of utmost importance.
That is why California already has some of the strongest labor and workforce safety requirements in the world. This new regulation does not change those already robust requirements, so no improvements to workplace labor standards will occur. Yet, its vague wording will spook automakers enough to discourage them from locating their manufacturing operations and creating more jobs in California.
Now state legislators want to take the next step and require implementation of this regulation, which would make CVRP more restrictive – and limit customer choice, even though the program has been proven to work. It is difficult to fathom that Sacramento would consider this at the same time that California’s ability to continue setting its own clean car rules has now come under attack from Washington, D.C., where the U.S. EPA has proposed rolling back federal fuel economy and tailpipe emission standards.
The Valley Industry and Commerce Association has made this point many times: without continued economic growth, California will not be able to continue pushing forward with an environmental agenda. Supporting manufacturing jobs is critical. While California acts as a leader in many sectors of the economy, it is falling behind in manufacturing when compared to other states.
According to a study by the California Manufacturing Network, California’s manufacturing sector comprises approximately 10.7 percent of the state’s GDP, which is devastatingly low compared to, for example, Oregon’s 31.9 percent. California is failing to keep up with our peers, which will cause long-term damage to our economy.
Let’s not spend time trying to fix something that isn’t broken, but rather continue to innovate and build an economy that encourages solutions to some of our time’s most intractable problems. If California wants to remain the fifth largest economy in the world, we have to support in-state manufacturing. The CVRP program will continue to encourage manufacturing jobs and economic growth in California– as long as it’s not undermined by unrelated and unnecessary requirements.
Stuart Waldman is the President of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) which works to enhance the economic vitality of the Greater Fernando Valley region by advocating for a better business climate and quality of life.