If one takes a quick glance at the daily schedule of events happening in and around the State Capitol all on the same Monday this week, there seems to be a peculiar political paradox taking place right under our noses. Or, in laymen’s terms: an offensive double standard.
On Monday, April 4, the Governor signed SB 3, legislation increasing the California minimum wage to $15 an hour. Never mind that a mere three months ago small businesses and voters saw it rise to $10.00 an hour, making it even then (second only to the District of Columbia at $10.50) the highest in the nation. As the Governor himself stated in January, “Raise the minimum wage too much and you put a lot of people out of work. There won’t be a lot of jobs. It’s a matter of balance.”
Also on the agenda the same day this week was a hearing to evaluate the High-Speed Rail Authority, including criticism by many on both sides of the aisle about the significant cost the rail project will be to the state and California taxpayers. Too bad constituents weren’t afforded the same formal hearing process and public discourse surrounding the minimum wage measure, which the Governor’s Department of Finance has pegged at $4 billion per year. Instead, the measure moved faster than a bullet train – from a weekend discussion with labor unions, to the legislative chambers for a party-line vote, to the Governor’s desk for a swift signature – all without small businesses and voters allowed a seat at the table and open discussion. Had that taken place, we would have clearly heard stakeholders raise concerns about these enormous recurring state costs that will affect the truly vulnerable across our state – not just “mom and pops”, but persons with disabilities, students in our schools, local governments in rural and economically disadvantaged regions, and seniors on fixed incomes, to name a few.
Add to the irony a Capitol rally on this very same Monday surrounding legislation to exempt certain personal care products from the state sales tax. While some products would no doubt be exempted, most others would not and most small businesses would still be expected to continue to levy on their products a statewide sales tax that is also the highest in the nation. To add insult to injury, legislation has also been in play that seeks to extend the sales tax to service industries. So, exempt certain businesses and taxpayers from some taxes, while insisting that other, new, struggling industries pay more. And how, exactly, is a minimum wage hike not a “tax” on our number one job creators, the corner restaurant, the book store, the retailer? According to the legislature, “You win some, you lose some – we’ll make that decision for you based on our special interest support.”
Voters deserve better than this. Fortunately, in this election year, we all have an opportunity to demand voting records and explanations from the incumbents, and specific details and pledges from the new candidates. Have they stood with small business? Will they? Don’t settle for double speak – there’s too much at stake for us this November and the generations that follow.