‘Made in the USA’ Requirement Pushed As Job-Creator for California

August 11, 2011 - 10:58 AM

Unemployment Benefits

In this June 2, 2011 photo, job seekers register at the 10th annual Skid Row Career Fair held at the Los Angeles Mission downtown Los Angeles. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits hardly changed for a second straight week, stuck at a high level that suggests a slowing job market. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(CNSNews.com) - Liberal activists -- with a dig at tea party conservatives -- are pushing a California ballot initiative intended to bring jobs to the state by requiring state and local government agencies to buy only “Made in the USA” products.

"The Tea Party gridlock and paralysis in Washington and Sacramento requires middle-class voters to take action to bring back jobs," said Jim Gonzalez, a proponent of the initiative and a former finance chair of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors. “The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California Act would end the decline of manufacturing jobs that is at the root of our economic crisis."

Beginning in January 2014, the initiative would require the State of California and all local government entities to purchase or lease only those products that are manufactured in the United States – and made mostly from materials produced in the U.S.A.

Construction and public works contracts would go only to companies that agree to use or supply made-in-the-U.S.A. products and produced-in-the-U.S.A. materials.

Gonzalez and two fellow Democrats, Bill Zimmerman and John Thiella, have sent the ballot initiative to the California Attorney General for a title and a summary, after which they will circulate the petition and try to collect enough signatures to get the measure on the November 2012 ballot.

"Between 2001 and 2011, California lost 612,000 manufacturing jobs, equal to over 32% of our state's industrial base," said Thiella, who formerly worked for California's elected tax commission. He said the proposed ballot initiative would create a market for new manufacturing contracts based on the combined purchasing power of the State of California and its counties, cities, districts, and local government agencies.

"The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California Act is about simple economic justice in an economy being destroyed by outsourcing and long term unemployment," said Bill Zimmerman, who has organized other citizens' initiatives, including the Proposition 215 (medical marijuana).  

(As an example of how outsourcing is hurting the state, the ballot initiative notes that the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge span is being built by low-wage workers in China.)

"The decline of our industrial base, and the loss of high wage manufacturing jobs, has led to suffering for unemployed workers and frustration for consumers who can't find good ‘Made in America’ products in stores," Zimmerman said. 

Burdensome taxes and regulation

California’s unemployment rate stood at 11.8 percent in June, up from 11.7 percent in May, but lower than the peak of 12.5 percent in September 2010.

Many California-based companies are moving their operations to other states – sometimes at the urging of other states’ governors, including Rick Perry of Texas.

The blame rests with California’s burdensome tax and regulatory environment, analysts say.

California ranked 49th in the Tax Foundation's 2011 State Business Tax Climate Index, which compares the states in five areas of taxation that affect business. California's corporate income tax rate is the highest in the West, the Washington-based Tax Foundation says.

The California Chamber of Commerce, in its 2011 Business Climate Survey, asked employers to assess the disadvantages of doing business in California: “By far, respondents believed too much government regulation was a primary factor in creating a disadvantage for California companies (40%),” the Chamber said. “Others cited high state and local taxes (13%) and the state budget deficit (12%).”

In April, a delegation of California lawmakers and business leaders traveled to Texas to hear Gov. Perry explain how Texas is attracting companies to the state by keeping taxes low, maintaining a predictable regulatory climate and fair legal system, and developing a skilled workforce.