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Reaping What We Sow

Author: Kate King
October, 2003 Issue

The fall in Napa is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful times to enjoy the Valley. In a short period of time one can travel temptingly close to row upon row of fruit-laden vines, watch the labor intensive harvest and experience the thrill of crush–all in anticipation of another banner year of premium, world famous wines. In this magical place we can truly see the "reap what you sow" take place and know that our future is intricately linked to the events of the recent past. Unfortunately, they are now beginning to understand that this state is beginning to reap what they have been sowing for the past several yearsÑand it's not a bumper crop of optimism or boom times.

Our elected leadership, due in part to term limits (another idea that seemed like a good idea at the time, now gone bad), has become more and more distanced from the reality of life in our golden state. Regardless of what they may say, there are, in fact, few moderates in either political party and very few who have the interest of the larger populace in mind when it comes to governing wisely. It seems that top of mind priorities for every elected official becomes getting re-elected and the road to that goal seems to be paved with favors for special interest groups. Understandable, but positive for them only in the short term.

What these politically sophisticated officials have done is get themselves into a real pickle. Nearly all of the groups that have been donating the most to get them (and keep them) elected are somehow on the payroll. Prison guards, teachers, labor, public safety and public employee unions all contribute mightily to get these leaders elected. And the politicians have repaid them handsomely through richer benefit packages, sweeter retirement deals and laws that help force more workers into unions. All these things have worked well over the past several years and a great windfall for both the politicians and their supporters. And businesses? Well, they just go on trying to survive and making the mistake of supporting both sides of the aisle, thinking that at some point, elected officials will give them a break and vote in a business-friendly manner. Someday. Yeah, right.

Well, now the time has come for the elected officials (and those who supported them) to reap what they have sown. Because suddenly the "worm has turned" as my Momma used to say. Now, the State is facing the largest budget deficit in history. The programs and special interest groups are finding that the chickens have come home to roost, and there's no one to buy the feed! None of these special interest groups does the one thing that the legislators need the most: They don't generate revenue! They use it up, but they sure don't generate it.

So now what? Oh yeah, there's, uh, business. Now there's a revenue generator! But what has happened over the past several years? These same legislators who desperately need to find revenue are looking at fees, taxes, fines, licenses, permits and who knows what else to fatten up the coffers again. But they've managed to hurt businesses so much over the past few years that there is simply no extra fat to be found. Workers' comp, regulations, fees, health-care costs, rising wages and mandates for payments to individuals have hamstrung the backbone of our economy and small business. Job generation is no longer an option. In fact, in light of today's labor laws and mandates, few business owners want to add to their payrolls. Instead they are looking for ways to reduce the costs of labor while increasing their efficiency in an attempt to regain what little profit they may have once had. And we all know that economic recovery without job generation is a false recovery.

So, our elected leaders in the State have gotten us into a fine mess. But here's the good news: Business is still the only avenue to a recovery. And that puts you, the business person, in the catbird seat. It's time for you to realize that you can have power in the State, but only if you have the courage to do the things that will insure real success.

Stop giving campaign donations to anti-business candidates and incumbents.
They don't vote in your favor, yet you keep rewarding them for that behavior. (Has that ever worked with your kids?)

Look for, encourage and help elect business-friendly candidates.
Yes, it's true, we do have to change the system from the inside, and we can only do that if reasonable, moderate people are willing to give their time and talent to making a difference. Let's put the public back in public service!

Pay attention to what your elected officials are doing and hold their feet to the fire!
If they vote for anti-business bills, tell them you are not happy about it. Believe me, the other side does.

Ask your legislator to limit the number of bills he or she introduces.
How can they possibly have the time to truly research or understand the over 4,000 bills that are introduced each session? If each of our legislators voluntarily limited the number of bills they introduced, there would be less duplication, more attention paid to true priorities and less frivolous and "pork" bills passed.

Vote!
Your vote does count, and it's a privilege that you should exercise at every opportunity.

Maybe if we do these five things more assertively we will begin to reap a better harvest of business-friendly leadership. Maybe the fruits of our labor will be a balanced and moderate legislature that understands that cooperation, not partisan politics, will help the State get back into the business of creating jobs.

In the meantime, have a nice glass of wine and think about what you can do now that you're in the driver's seat.

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