By Mario Conde
District 80th Assemblyman Manuel Perez announced his legislative reform proposal last week aimed to improve the Enterprise Zone program.
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed the elimination of Enterprise Zones and Redevelopment Agencies to save money and balance the huge budget deficit. Perez has come out and opposed the Governor’s proposal to eliminate these two entities and said that there needs to be reform to the 42 Enterprise Zones rather than phasing out.
“California has to get serious about making this state a more business friendly place,” said Perez. “Eliminating the Enterprise Zone program is not going to help the California economy or California communities. Let’s seize this opportunity to improve the program so that it is more transparent and accountable to the public, and more closely linked to our community and workforce development objectives.”
Perez was critical of Governor’s proposed elimination of the zones: “Our current budget crisis wasn’t created in a day, and unless we address the root problems that drive the imbalance, California could end up in worse shape. Don’t we want to promote business growth and success, not discourage it? Don’t we seek to reduce economic disparities in communities, not take actions that aggravate them? Eliminating this program has significant consequences for our state. We need a better solution.”
IVEZ Manager Diane Cason said that enterprise zones are vital for rural communities and its economic development. “With unemployment hovering close to 30%, the creation of any new jobs and the retention of any existing jobs are a matter of utmost importance.” Cason also described how one Imperial Valley employer had an option of either locating in neighboring Arizona or coming to Imperial County: “The designation of the IVEZ made the difference. That company now employs hundreds of local residents.”
Daniel Fitzgerald, manager of the Calexico-County Enterprise Zone, remarked, “The Enterprise Zone program is critical for economic development in Calexico and Imperial County. It is an essential tool to be able to attract new investment to the area. Being located next to the State of Arizona and Mexico, our competitiveness is constantly an issue in attracting business. The Enterprise Zone tax credits provide an essential cost savings for a business to establish itself in Calexico or Imperial County.”
At the State of the State address last week, Governor Brown once again spoke and the elimination of the RDA’s and answered to the critics that oppose the elimination of the Redevelopment Agencies.
“They base their case on the claim that redevelopment funds leverage other funds and create jobs. I certainly understand this because I saw redevelopment first hand as mayor of Oakland. But I also understand that redevelopment funds come directly from local property taxes that would otherwise pay for schools and core city and county services such as police and fire protection and care for the most vulnerable people in our society.” Brown said and continued, “So it is a matter of hard choices and I come down on the side of those who believe that core functions of government must be funded first. But be clear, my plan protects current projects and supports all bonded indebtedness of the redevelopment agencies.
Assembly member Perez met with the Calexico Economic Development Commission last week along with Mayor John Moreno and spoke about the possible elimination of the RDA. Perez said he supports the Redevelopment Agency and said he will work with other legislators to keep them.