Opinion Editorial Pacific Coast Business Times

Grau: Oil industry critical to Ventura County economy

by David Grau

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a $54 billion state budget deficit resulting from the pandemic-induced statewide shutdown. According to the Department of Finance, the state is facing the worst budget gap since the Great Recession.

The shortfall is almost 37 percent of the current $147.8 billion general fund budget, and widespread program cuts are imminent. K-12 schools and community colleges stand to lose $18 billion alone and are faced with the expensive burden of adapting campuses to a new reality. The legislature is making critical decisions about the state budget and Californians are making hard choices between rent and putting food on the table.

Local governments are also not immune from the economic devastation of COVID-19. While many are on a path to re-opening, the staggering decline in income, sales and transient occupancy revenue has become an issue that is taking center stage. In Ventura County, the city of Oxnard is considering a sales tax increase to balance its $10.8 million budget deficit, and the city of Ventura increased city fees to help with its $12 million loss. The county is projecting to receive 10 percent less funding from the state that will impact education, social services and public safety programs.

The financial situation for many local residents is just as grim. Thousands of local businesses who shuttered their doors may never re-open again and their employees left without a job. More than 56,000 Ventura County residents have filed for unemployment and a recent Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. report is expecting that number to climb to 87,900.

During these unprecedented times, Ventura County Taxpayers Association urges local governments look at every opportunity to bolster and protect our local economy. That means protecting jobs for families, and tax revenues for local governments to ensure access to vital community services.

The local oil and natural gas industry employs more than 2,000 individuals in Ventura County, and generates more than $50 million in tax revenues to fund schools, social services and public safety. These jobs and tax revenues are now more important than ever.

In fact, every level of government – city, county, state and federal – has deemed all elements of our oil and natural gas industry and its workforce as essential services and critical infrastructure, acknowledging its importance during the pandemic. Oil and natural gas workers are keeping our communities safe by delivering the energy that produces and delivers food to our grocery stores, water to our taps, medical supplies and personnel to our hospitals, and power to our communication and emergency response centers.

Through this challenging time, local oil and natural gas production continues to be a vital source for all Californians by providing a reliable and affordable energy supply that keeps our families and loved ones comfortable and safe. Every job and every dollar counts, especially to oil and gas employees and state and local governments who will rely on the tax revenues to survive.

• David Grau is the president of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association.

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