More and more effective investment in California on the table

12 August 2014 by Steve Blum
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Lawmakers meet in Sacramento today with regional leaders from around California, to talk about solving a number of economic challenges faced by the state, including how to pay for and upgrade basic infrastructure. It’s a follow-on to the California Economic Summit held in Los Angeles last year. The summit organisers are already claiming victory, of a sort…

Looking back on our goals for the year, every one of the major legislative proposals identified in The Summit Plan to Advance Prosperity in 2014 has been accomplished – from new investments in workforce training and infrastructure to a permanent source of funding for affordable housing. Summit action teams have offered assistance to state leaders grappling with the drought, explored options for reducing regulatory uncertainty for businesses and public agencies alike, and are laying a foundation to expand access to capital for small businesses all over California.

My particular interest is infrastructure generally, but particularly in regards to broadband. Two big challenges are finding the money and streamlining the government approval process, particularly California’s byzantine environmental regulations.

Some progress has been made on the funding side. A proposal to explicitly add broadband to the list of public projects that can be funded via local infrastructure financing districts is working its way through the legislature now. On the other hand, so is a bill that would cripple the California Advanced Services Fund by adding a layer of union work rules and pay scales to projects, whether appropriate or not.

I’m looking forward to hearing about progress on the environmental approval front. Or at least hoping that I’ll hear about progress. When investors have a choice – and they almost always do – they’ll choose to put their money where permit costs are lower and, more importantly, the process is reasonably rational and predictable.