The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce held its inaugural Legislative Summit on Thursday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort. More than 100 people from the business community and local elected officials attended the event to address regulatory reform, unfunded liabilities, and state and local budgets.
Panel members included state Sen. Tony Strickland, Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, senior field representative Hillary Blackerby, who spoke for Assemblyman Das Williams, and Goleta Councilman Ed Easton.
Discussion on regulatory reform ranged from consolidating agencies to eliminating taxes.
Strickland said California could start by cutting boards and positions that don’t communicate, such as the Franchise Tax Board or the Board of Equalization, and the Department of Education or the directly elected superintendent.
“These are huge bureaucracies that don’t talk to each other. We can consolidate these agencies; there’s way too many,” he said. “We talk about green technology that can get venture capital. The problem is they have to go through 24 different agencies to get things done, so capital doesn’t come in because of fear of one agency shutting down the whole project.”
Strickland said the best way to create statewide revenue is to create a better business climate without raising taxes.
“It’s the only way to raise revenue because you can’t raise taxes enough,” he said. “I will tell you right now I believe by raising taxes you will hurt the very economy we are trying to get people to foster to grow.”
In terms of pension reform, Blackerby advocated capping salaries to prevent pension spiking.
“Pension spiking is not necessary,” she said. “It’s very rare. Even though it’s this sexy thing you see in the paper, (we can) cap the salary that you can do your calculation on.”
When it comes to the budget deficit, many local governments have been forced to cut positions. Wolf said Santa Barbara County has dealt with its deficit by cutting positions. It had 4,300 positions five years ago and has cut that number to 3,600.
“The challenge for the county is to make sure the reduction in staff does not negatively impact the services that we provide to the county,” she said.
Event sponsors included Venoco Inc., The Towbes Group, the Cabrillo Business Park, Cox, the Santa Barbara Airport, Citrix Online, RCI Builders, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Latitude 34 Technologies, Marmalade Café, Media 27, Palius & O’Kelley and Wilson Printing. Supporting sponsors are ATK Space Systems, FLIR Commercial Vision Systems, Montecito Bank & Trust, Noozhawk and the Pacific Coast Business Times.