Money

By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com
Published: Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2013 – 11:00 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 26, 2013 – 7:38 am

OAKLAND — In signing a bill to raise California’s minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday not only moved to increase the state’s hourly minimum for the first time since 2008, but also handed influential business interests a rare defeat.

The bill, celebrated by the Democratic governor and his labor union allies at ceremonies in Los Angeles and Oakland, was the only one of 38 bills designated “job killers” by the California Chamber of Commerce to make it out of the Legislature this year.

Its singularity suggested the limitations of more liberal elements of the Democratic Party, even in a heavily Democratic state and even after Democrats seized two-thirds majorities of both houses of the Legislature.

Among bills that failed to go forward this year were proposals to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, to impose a severance tax on the extraction of oil and natural gas, and to modify California’s property-tax limiting Proposition 13.

The Legislature’s restraint reflects the Democratic Party’s gains in moderate districts in recent years and lawmakers’ increasing familiarity with a governor willing to veto legislation business groups oppose. The chamber’s influential political action committee, JobsPAC, has poured millions of dollars into races throughout the state to help elect Republican candidates along with Democrats the chamber considers sympathetic to business.

“You’ve got a whole bunch of (moderate Democrats), and I just don’t think California Democrats wanted to declare war on California businesses,” said Tony Quinn, a political analyst and former Republican legislative aide. “I think the business community feels they did reasonably well.”

Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, discounted the chamber’s victories as those of a group “playing defense all the time,” and he said “at the end of the day we feel very good about what the Legislature did.”

Still, it is the third year in a row in which business groups have defended themselves relatively effectively from the bills they fear most. In 2011, Brown’s first year in office, five bills identified by the state chamber as “job killers” made their way to the governor’s desk. He vetoed four. Following the end-of-session rush in 2012, six of of 32 bills designated as “job killers” reached Brown. He signed four of those measures and vetoed two.

“We are pleased with our success,” Denise Davis, a chamber spokeswoman, said in an email. “We fought hard and made sure legislators understood how bad these proposed job killers would have been for California jobs and our economy.”

Of the minimum wage bill, she said, “We all need to work together to improve the economy to offset the increased labor costs that will occur.”

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