On Wednesday’s mayoral debate, candidates Darrell Steinberg and Angelique Ashby appeared to agree on speeding up the city’s permitting process as a way to improve the business climate. They also mentioned improving public transit and building more housing within the central city as imperative projects.
Steinberg stepped ahead of the discussion, though, by proposing three specific ideas to help local businesses: 90-day permitting on development projects, a zero-interest loan program for restaurants and a tax credit for manufacturing and technology firms.
The Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have for years talked about 90-day permitting. The latter two proposals are somewhat recent ideas from Region Business, a political advocacy group.
“Sen. Steinberg came to the table and took our ideas and other ideas from business groups to give people an idea of what a Steinberg mayorship would look like,” said Josh Wood, CEO of Region Business. The group has endorsed Steinberg for mayor.
The former Senate leader proposed to give tax credits to manufacturing and technology companies that come to Sacramento and vow to stay for 10 years. The incentive program is modeled after a tax-increment program in Toronto that provides certain developments with grants that are worth up to 60 percent of extra taxes resulting from the project. In Toronto, the program is targeted at construction projects in certain industries like tourism and manufacturing.
The restaurant proposal is being called the farm-to-fork legacy restaurant initiative, and would involve the creation of a municipal fund that could provide zero-interest loans for restaurants that agreed to expand to a second location. Similar programs are common in other states, and exist in cities such as Toronto and San Francisco, Wood said.
Peter Tateishi, CEO of the Metro Chamber, said the organization has proposed tax credit programs over the years and generally likes the idea of them. For a business loan program, Tateishi said the chamber liked the concept but wanted more detail about how the city would fund the loan program and whether it would include any limits. If it were available to any restaurant, the cost of the loan program could climb pretty rapidly, he noted.
Keeping the city’s fiscal health in mind, Steinberg would need to show “that a sustainable model is there,” Tateishi said. “We need to make sure there is a path forward.”
Sacramento’s business community is eager to hear more details from both mayoral candidates, he added. The Wednesday forum was intended to help the chamber’s political action committee determine who it will support for mayor. The organization does not yet have a timeline for when it will make that endorsement.