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The True Meaning of Business Friendly

Every February, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA) holds its State Officeholders Dinner, where we invite elected officials to meet with our members in a fun and intimate setting. During the dinner program, at least one of our guests is always asked this question: Are you pro-business? With our annual dinner having just taken place, we thought it would be helpful to clarify what we mean when we say “pro-business.” It’s easy to define in vague terms. A pro-business politician creates and supports policies that foster a robust business climate. But what does that mean exactly? What does it mean in Los Angeles? In California? Let’s start with a hot topic on every California and Los Angeles company’s radar – the minimum wage. VICA believes that in most circumstances, a pro-business lawmaker will not introduce legislation or an ordinance to massively raise the state or city minimum wage over just a few years. However, combining minimum wage increases with business-boosting policies like lowering tax rates for businesses, eliminating onerous regulations and the like could certainly soften the blow. Also, pro-business lawmaker will consult with the business community meaningfully on issues like the minimum wage, and facilitate an open and transparent process. A pro-business politician will make real efforts to cut down on frivolous litigation. This can be done in a number of ways. Requiring the losing party who brought a bad faith lawsuit against another party to pay for all attorney’s fees – commonly known as a “loser pays” rule – is a sure deterrent against needless litigation. Requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave, complicated worker’s compensation legislation and new laws that require companies to share liability with contractors are also surefire ways to encourage lawsuits and further back up the state’s overloaded court system. California businesses are also frequently targeted with environmental lawsuits in which the suing party invokes the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law’s complicated laundry list of regulations makes it especially attractive to special interests, such as labor groups, to wield as a legal tool in order to get what they want. CEQA in its current incarnation has led to significantly increased costs for companies and project delays because of its repetitious approval process. Any pro-business lawmaker will make CEQA reform a top priority. A pro-business politician implements incentives that attract different industries to the state and its various regions and helps them thrive. A great example is last year’s huge expansion of the California Film & Television Tax Credit program, which will result in billions of dollars in direct spending in the state – particularly benefiting Los Angeles. A lawmaker who cares about business will draft tax incentives that help companies in California’s struggling aerospace and manufacturing industries as well. A pro-business elected official in Los Angeles recognizes the mounting traffic problems in our region and works to allocate transportation funding to the areas that need it most. The Valley contributes 20 percent of L.A. County’s total tax dollars, yet is sorely lacking in light rail options for commuters. As a result, the Valley is the junction for two of the country’s – yes, country’s – most congested freeway interchanges. Any official looking to improve business conditions in the Los Angeles region will prioritize alleviating traffic here through freeway renovations and increasing public transportation options. Lastly, a Los Angeles officeholder sees the gross receipts tax, or the “business tax,” as a huge burden on the city’s businesses, and creates or supports a real path to its eventual elimination. Obviously, there are myriad ways in which a politician can demonstrate his or her commitment to bettering the state and local business climate. VICA hopes that those looking to improve business conditions will look at the aforementioned issues as a great place to start. Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Sherman Oaks that represents employers throughout the Los Angeles County region at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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