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MORAIN: California needs to get smart about its tax breaks

<WC1>Sacramento has no shortage of lobbyists. So Jeff Miller's decision to move his family to Austin, Texas, shouldn't be a big deal, except for what it says about our state and opportunities elsewhere.

Miller had no shortage of clients, having worked at Capitol Advocates, the fifth largest billing lobby firm in town last year. He also was the California Republican Party's chief fundraiser, until the state party unraveled.

Sure, there are greener opportunities for a Republican in Texas than here. Miller is friends with Gov. Rick Perry, having raised money for his presidential campaign last year. His move suggests Perry will run for re-election and believes he has a future nationally, despite his embarrassing 2012 run.

In Austin, Miller will have a new side line: easing the way for California companies whose bosses are thinking of moseying to the Lone Star State.

<WC>"<WC1>California companies that don't have their assets nailed to the ground are looking for relief from the state's escalating costs and regulatory mandates,<WC>"<WC1> said Miller, having changed his Facebook photo to one of him in a 10-gallon hat. Texas is <WC>"<WC1>at the top of the list because of the incredible difference in the cost of running a business.<WC>"

<WC1>We've heard this before. The Wall Street Journal ran one of its periodic articles the other day about the dreadful business climate here and how other states have set up California offices to lure employers.

On a sunny day in the Golden State, it's easy to dismiss such stories. The Public Policy Institute of California did hard research, showing that from 1992 through 2006, 16,000 jobs annually moved into California and 25,000 jobs moved out. The net annual employment change due to relocation was a blip, 0.05 percent of California's 18 million jobs.

But with the California economy and unemployment lagging other states, political leaders also should pay attention to guys like Miller.

Yes, California claims to make an effort to attract jobs. The state has doled out billions of dollars since the mid-1980s to businesses that locate in so-called enterprise zones, specially designated areas where companies get tax credits for hiring workers. In the coming year, the state will give more than $700 million to companies in enterprise zones.

But the way the state spends that money is wasteful and downright dumb. As the Public Policy Institute of California found, <WC>"<WC1>enterprise zones have no overall effect on job growth.<WC>"<WC1> California makes no public disclosure about the companies that get the money. It's not clear whether the employers are Wal-Mart or high-end manufacturers.


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