California’s Budget Plan Is Promising for Jobs, But It Has to Be Done Right

By Jennifer Drudge
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal includes significant funding for infrastructure projects and clean energy initiatives. But it’s vital that this work happen in California to maximize job creation. Getty Images

The Golden State often leads the way when it comes to public policy. Here’s what stands out in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest budget proposal.

California is being ravaged by COVID-19. This is where I live, and it is scary and depressing.  But Gov. Gavin Newsom just released a promising budget proposal for 2021-2022, which gives some much-needed feelings of hope if these dollars are paired with the right policies.

Newsom’s proposed budget of $227.2 billion would immediately aid in COVID-19 relief and vaccinations, and also includes funding for education and childcare. But a big part of the budget also focuses on job creation and economic recovery, which will be critical as the state looks to rebound once the COVID-19 pandemic is finally behind us. 

As part of my work at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, I served on a committee that offered recommendations for constructing the budget proposal, which went into the $4.5 billion Equitable Recovery for California Businesses and Jobs plan. We have been working diligently for the last two years to deliver these ideas, I had the privilege of spearheading the infrastructure team. I also served as a member of the workforce development team, which was all headed up by California Forward.

The $4.5 billion plan specifically allocates $1.5 billion for clean transportation programs, like the purchase of near-zero and zero-emission trucks, buses, and off-road freight equipment, as well as light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging infrastructure, along with $300 million for deferred maintenance and greening of the state’s infrastructure. 

Newsom’s budget proposal also includes a larger five-year infrastructure plan that focuses on various needs for infrastructure improvements throughout the state. Notably, that plan includes funding for wildfire reduction and forest restoration, which is critical for reducing the risk of deadly wildfires by taking steps like enhancing watersheds.

There are lots of reasons to invest in infrastructure and clean energy, including addressing climate change. But these investments also create jobs, which is why the federal government must also get to work. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a $2 trillion, four-year investment in infrastructure and clean energy would create at least 3.3 million new jobs.

But in order to ensure that the transition to near-zero and zero emission vehicles is a net gain for jobs here in California (and the United States as a whole), California needs to implement domestic content requirements to ensure that Californians and American workers gain the skills and careers for the technology of tomorrow. At the same time as these policies are implemented, California must take steps so that the workers who powered the United States from the industrial revolution through decades of economic growth also have the chance to partake and thrive in the prosperity of a clean energy future.

Simply put, it is vital that these projects are Made in America, starting with goods Made in California. This will maximize the return on the state’s investment, creating jobs and reinvesting tax money right back into communities throughout the state. If California-made products are not available, the state should look to resources in the United States.

After all, California’s Bay Bridge is the case study in what happens when you outsource infrastructure work; the state shouldn’t repeat its past mistakes.

The budget proposal also includes $777.5 million to provide incentives targeting the acceleration of investment and job creation, along with an additional $1.1 billion in immediate relief for small businesses who are in desperate need of aid. We support all domestic companies and hope for their successes – they succeed, jobs continue to be created!

Many times, I hear there is such a need for qualified workers in the work force and certain specialties are needed to do the job, so with the $353 million allocated in the budget for workforce development, projects can indeed be started and completed. With that, good jobs will be created and allow the economy to continue to flourish. 

We support labor.  We support jobs. This was an allocation that needed to be addressed and I am glad it has taken form.

In order for this budget to be successful California must, whenever possible, use domestic supply chains for projects. Where we currently don’t have capacity, California needs to explore means to do so via research and development, as well as domestic deployment of new technologies. 

As we welcome the new year, we must assure that investments in California are backed by sound policy that will create jobs and pave the road to an economic recovery.