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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lt. Governor Garamendi Speaks in Davis

Last night, Lt. Governor John Garamendi spoke at the Davis home of UC Davis Law Professor John Oakley and County Clerk Freddie Oakley. Garamendi who formerly served as a State Senator for the City of Davis is a Democratic candidate for Governor in 2010. Thank you to my wife Cecilia who took the photos and recorded the speech in my stead as I was under the weather. Here are some of the Lt. Governor's remarks.

We're in the process of making some absolutely crucial decisions about the future of California. I don't think we really understand how important this period is that we're living.

Education, you talk about education, you can talk about Davis or the surrounding area of Yolo and you can see all of the issues right here. You can see those communities where you have real serious educational issues--where you have poverty, immigrants, and minorities. You can see the pressure, you can see the dropout rates, you can see the kind of things that are going on and you don't have to go too far away and you can see some excellent things, excellent education. And of course you have the community college and of course this excellent university. So it's all right here.

Then the pressure on the land as our population grows. This morning 305 million Americans, and somewhere around 38 million Californians, probably a little more than that today, the extraordinary pressure that that's putting on the resources, the land, upon the water, transportation, air, all of those things, it's kind of like Davis.

Not too far away, but impacting this community is the budget of the state of California. At the beginning of the end of that process, it's the most important statement that we make annually about what's important to us. What's important to California? We're in this period of time and we're making a decision right now about what California's going to be in the years ahead. I have to tell, I am very deeply concerned. But I'm also really hopeful because Californians have always had this desire to do better. It's a place where we can do better. It's a place where we can grow and raise our families, where opportunity exists.

At the same time there is a reluctance to reach out and do the things that make that possible. And the reluctance is seen in this year's budget. Actually the last five years of budgets. If that's the statement about what's important to us in California then we are in deep trouble because the things that create the economic growth, the opportunity for people to get a good job, to climb the economic ladder, those investments are not being made. In fact, we're disinvesting. Each year we're investing in less things that create that economic growth, specifically education.

This university in 1990, the day I left the legislature, we spent $15,000 per student at the University of California. Last year we spent $10,000, actually a little less than $10,000. Now that is a statement of what’s important. A similar reduction has taken place at the state university system. There is no way this economy is going to prosper 10 to 15 years from now unless we reverse that and invest in education. K through 12, similarly, all of the discussion about kids not being prepared, all true.

Transportation issues, are we investing in transportation? No we’re not. We’re talking right now about stimulus packages and all of that. Where’s that money going to go? Is it going to go to the kind of transportation that this modern state needs? We don’t know. We’ll make a decision collectively, as a group, as a society. We’ll make a decision, are we going to continue to build the great freeway system which ultimately creates most of the climate change problems for the state of California? Or are we going to go into a different direction, one that moves us toward a modern transportation system? Modern like railroads. Modern like high speed trains. Modern like buses, public transportation systems.

If you take a look at the budgets that are coming down, the answer is we’re not going in that direction. We did pass the high speed rail bond. Will there be money to build it? Possibly. Twenty years ago, Jim Costa and I sponsored two pieces of legislation to establish the high speed rail program in California. We’re patient people, twenty years, it was signed into law and became law in 1990.

If you look at the health care system in the state of California, we have the most extraordinary health care system. It delivers the very best medicine in the world. We have six and a half million Californians that don’t participate in that system. That’s raw, it’s also an enormous drag on the economy. We spend a third of all the money in the health care system on administrative costs. At the new business school over here, you write a thesis, a project and you’re going to spend one-third of your money on administrative costs, they’re going to throw you out as a dumb-dumb. But yet we spend one-third of all the money on administrative costs that’s 17 percent of our economy.

So we’ve got some real issues. And these are decisions that we’re making right now about the future of California.

We’ve made a decision to deal with greenhouse gases. Now the implementation of that, when the going gets really tough, because we have to change the way we spend our money if we’re going to deal with greenhouse gases. We’re not going to be able to spend our money on things that we once did—oil, gasoline. We’re going to have spend our money on renewable. We’re going to have to spend our money and subsidize those things that reduce the greenhouse gases. Fundamental decisions, my vision is to get at those things. To cause us as Californians to once again realize that can do the things to create a great state, that give us a good environment, that deal with the greenhouse gases.

There is enough water in California to deal with the water issues. We can do those things, but not if we do not use our government wisely as a tool to achieve success, as a way of solving our problems. Those folks in California that say that government is bad, they are the worst, they are the people that will cause us to fail. You look down through the history of America, you look down through the history of California, we have always succeeded when two things came together simultaneously—a strong powerful government that put in place programs, incentives, subsidies, and direction and then a strong private sector that working together with government, built the state. It happened every single time we made progress.

Agricultural industry wouldn’t exist as it is known in California today were it not for UC Davis and the investment that public made in Agricultural Research and the Agricultural Extension programs and the water programs and transportation programs and the education programs.

So where are we going as Californians? We’re going to know very soon. What’s happening in Sacramento with the budget today is the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been around since 1974 in government and I’ve never seen this kind of thing happen before.

The governor declares a fiscal emergency three weeks ago and then leaves down for a vacation. Hello? Hello is there an emergency? Well apparently it’s not so great so as to disrupt a ski vacation. Come on Governor. You said you’re going to make everybody stick around, where are you?

I tell you these things can be solved. I can see how they will be solved. The Republicans will vote for a tax increase, they will. There’s at least four members of the Assembly that will under the right circumstances vote for a tax increase. They only need five and there’s two in the Senate. I know who they are. And I know that they will vote for it—under the right circumstances—so you have to create the political atmosphere in that building. And you don’t do it by calling people names. You do it by working with them.

The other thing is, we’re the eighth wealthiest economy in the world. We’ve got our troubles. This economy’s not as strong, not as robust as it was two or three years ago. But we’re still the eighth largest economy in the world. We have great wealth in this state and we will make a collective decision are we going to spend that money and invest that wealth in things that create opportunity and economic growth or are we going to horde it, keep it to ourselves, we’re making that decision.

If we took one percent of the wealth that the California economy produces each year, took that wealth, and applied it to education, transportation, dealing with the climate, there would not be a budget problem today. It’s more than a trillion-and-a-half economy. It’s great wealth. How do we use that wealth? Do we use it for short-term, for whatever we’re doing at this moment or do we do what has always been the California tradition, that is to invest. Invest in those things that create opportunity—education, infrastructure, research.

---David M. Greenwald reporting