LAEDC: Assemblyman Smyth, thanks for sharing your thoughts with our readers in the Los Angeles County region. You have served California’s 38th Assembly District since 2006, and we appreciate your efforts as an advocate for your community and businesses in the region. Can you share with us what it means to represent one of the largest economic regions in the state and arguably the nation?
California Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R – Santa Clarita): Representing such a large economic region comes with the responsibility to govern in a way that implements thoughtful policies that consider tomorrow’s environment while fostering the right atmosphere for business to succeed and our economy to thrive. This means making the effort to reach out and work with a diverse cast of elected officials to make certain that well-balanced policies are pursued. For example, last year I was happy to be part of a bipartisan effort, including the Governor, which advocated for broad based tax reform that would have provided tax relief to small businesses and the middle class in Los Angeles and throughout California. This is critically important given our current economic situation as I believe the effects of a booming Los Angeles are positively felt throughout California. For my part, as I end my tenure in the state Assembly I will continue to look for ways to work across the aisle to the benefit of both my home region and the state.
LAEDC: The new session is only days old. However, would you mind sharing you lay out some of your goals and priorities for 2012 with our readers?
Assemblyman Smyth: One of my main priorities in recent years, and one that I will continue to focus on in 2012 is government reform. As Chair of the Local Government Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to really get involved in the legislative responses to the situations in cities like Bell and Vernon. While those cities may have had more widespread problems than others in the state, they highlighted the need for some simple reforms at all levels of government to provide additional transparency and accountability to taxpayers. We’ll continue exploring areas where we can root out corruption and waste.
Pension reform is also going to be a legislative priority this year, not just for me, but for the Legislature as a whole. Our current system is unsustainable, and with more retirees joining the system every year, we have to act quickly. Governor Brown has taken the first step by publishing his twelve point pension reform plan, which I believe will serve as the blueprint for pension reform discussions going forward.
Finally, and perhaps the most obvious priority for our state, is negotiating a responsible budget for California. The implementation of the majority-vote budget makes it more challenging to affect change in the budget process and in the final product, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking important questions and raising concerns with the spending priorities that the Governor and the majority party put forward.
LAEDC: In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges for Los Angeles County in the coming year?
Assemblyman Smyth: I think the biggest challenge for all of California’s counties, particularly one the size of Los Angeles County, will be handling an increased workload in the wake of Governor Brown’s public safety realignment and the gradual shift of other services from the state to the local level. While I believe that services can be delivered more efficiently at the local level, it’s unfair to shift all of the responsibility and none of the funding.
LAEDC: In the past, you have been instrumental in promoting California’s film tax credit, as well as emerging “green” technology. Do you sense a shift in the way we should be doing business in California?
Assemblyman Smyth: Those are two issues that have been incredibly important to me during my time in the Legislature, and I think they illustrate the way we need to approach business and investment in California. We have to preserve the industries that have made California a global economic leader, while also continuing to explore innovative businesses and jobs.
The film tax credit has been instrumental in curbing runaway film production. We were seeing so many productions, and the jobs that go along with them, leave California for states like New York and New Mexico because they offered more attractive incentives. And these aren’t tax breaks for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The people who benefit most from the film tax credit are the below-the-line workers that people often don’t think about – the caterers, the hardware stores, the makeup artists. Hollywood should be one of the bedrocks of California’s economy, and the film tax credit has helped us retain that industry.
Meanwhile, California is also home to some of the most innovate minds on the planet. Green technology is still in its infancy, and California is in a position to be an industry leader going forward. For me, it’s important that we take a well-rounded approach to the issue of green jobs and green technology, which is why I am co-chair of the Assembly E3 Caucus. We look at the relationship between energy, the environment, and the economy and try to create thoughtful policy that reflects all three of those priorities.
LAEDC: As Chair of the Local Government Committee, you are in a unique position to impact the state – and our region’s – economic recovery. How would you suggest business engage in this issue in Sacramento?
Assemblyman Smyth: It’s critical that businesses have an active voice in Sacramento. I think most businesses, with the help of local and statewide chambers of commerce, do a good job of staying in touch with the Legislature. But it has to go further than that. We’re at a time where businesses are subject to an increasingly hostile regulatory environment. Businesses need to make sure that their voices are heard when those regulations are being made, not just after the fact. This means letting agencies like the California Air Resources Board or the Public Utilities Commission know of the real world implications of their decisions, and coming up with workable compromises that mitigate the impact on our economy.
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(Note: The opinions expressed in the LAEDC’s Guest Blog series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the LAEDC and its affiliates.)