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California Assemblyman Jim Silva,  Vice-Chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy talks to PT about the struggles of small business owners, corvette maintenance and liberty as a political principle.

PT: How do policies governing small business startup and growth reflect our traditional commitment to entrepreneurial freedom and innovation?

Silva: I've always felt that in order for a business to be successful, it must be market-driven, meaning there should be a need for it out there. And I think government should do everything it can to help small businesses by removing government barriers that make it difficult for new businesses to succeed.

For example, I think that a lot of it would be the enormous tax burdens and costly state regulations that are put on businesses. For example, you open up a store—maybe it's a small restaurant. Well, before you can make any money, you have to deal with the landlord. Then the county health department comes in to check to make sure everything's okay…We like that, we're not going to argue with that, but then the fire marshal comes in and says, "Well I think this door should be a different type of door." Well that's no big deal—but it's $400, for a fireproof door. Then pretty soon you have to have a special permit for grease because you have grease in your kitchen. You also have a smoke stack where your fan ventilates…You pay out all this money before you make any money off the first hamburger you sell.

PT: In which areas do we see these types of over-restrictive policies?

Silva: Sometimes our environmental regulations make it really difficult on small business. For example, in southern California, a lot of our Korean dry cleaners were taken out because of chemicals that we are required to use. Or some of our paint companies have left southern California because they can no longer meet the requirements for toxic-free paint. And I think there has to be some form of fairness; you can't just throw every job out.

I think there has to be a balance; I think that we can over-regulate businesses to the point where it is no longer profitable to keep a business.

PT: Explain the legislative balance between encouraging small business growth and providing protections for labor, environment and competition.

Silva: I think government should never be used to cancel one business to make it more profitable for another business. An example would be what I have seen in the paint industry for a company that produces oil-based paint. They can no longer produce that paint, so now you have a water-based paint…and in a seaside community, with the harsh sea air, that kind of paint does not hold up. So what you end up with is a scenario where the cost of paint comes from the labor involved—you have to paint every year instead of every three years.

PT: As a legislator, is it ever a necessary evil to "abridge the liberty" of one party in the interest of another? How do you navigate these decisions?

Silva: I think that we have to really be careful not to over-regulate business, especially a small business, because they don't do the volume and they don't have the marketing ability that a large corporation would have. So right away a small business could be at a disadvantage, and I think that by placing more rules and regulations, small business can't function. For example, if you have to deal with an air quality agency, and you're a big company, you hire people on your staff to do that and they'll meet with inspectors and attend meetings, and sit on committees. If you're a small business owner, you don't have the ability to hire in-house. You're at the mercy of the regulators, or in some cases the inspectors.

PT: Well don't you think that's a good thing? That these larger businesses are able to provide experts and consultants that can adhere to safety standards and environmental policies?

Silva: I think that our country has been built on small business; and I hate to see an atmosphere that does not allow for private ownership of small businesses.

PT: Could you just expand on that—how you believe that small businesses can benefit the community and help affect government on the local level?

Silva: I have a sports car; it's a corvette. If I take it to a dealer, it will cost me $150 for a tune-up. I can take it to a small garage that specializes in corvettes and get it done for half that cost. But that small shop can't stay in business when they have to buy permits for all the fluids that they use. So instead of having one mechanic use a bed to clean parts, a large company may have ten mechanics using the same fluid, which makes it a lot cheaper to use, compared to only two people using it in a small business.

PT: Assemblyman, thank you for your time.

Jim Silva represents California's 67th Assembly District. He serves as Vice-Chair of the California State Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy, and is a member of the Budget and Governmental Organization Committees.


written by Linda Stickel, June 02, 2008

Dear Assemblyman Silva,

In accessing information about the canidates for the coming election, I have not found any that have addressed the education issue. Doesn't anyone care about the education of our children anymore? As a state we are spending less and less each year on education. Lets be real, our children are suffering because the proposed money from the lottery and the gaming isn't materilizing. In addition, with the lottery and with the gaming passing on the ballot the education funds for the state have been cut. Something and someone needs to step up and do something.

Linda Stickel