Letter: California economy must seize opportunity to make real progress

150 150 George P. Shultz and Leon Panetta

Tower Bridge in Sacramento (Photo Credit: Violeta Vaqueiro)

The California Economic Summit is predicated on an audaciously simple idea: bringing together some of our state’s most creative leaders – the public, private, and civic champions who do the hard work of creating jobs and building communities in California’s diverse regions – to solve the state’s most pressing problems.

After a year of progress in which Summit ideas have shaped investments in everything from workforce training to infrastructure, it is clear the Summit partnership between California Forward and the California Stewardship Network is more than just an impressive experiment. In investment after investment, the state is beginning to turn to regions to develop the strategies that will achieve state goals.

As successful as the Summit has been thus far – and we believe it is an essential element of a new, decentralized model of policy-making that will allow California to thrive – we know there is much more to be done.

While the state is beginning to make the investments California needs to be successful in a dynamic 21st-century economy, over the horizon lies the next challenge. The economic recovery and its rising revenues will inevitably fade. In the decade to come, California will face a deficit of 2 million skilled workers, an aging transportation and water system that must be updated to meet the needs of a growing population, and decades of regulations and policies that must be brought into sync for the state to remain competitive.

Finding a way through these obstacles remains the central purpose of the California Economic Summit – a platform for civic, regional, and state leaders to work together to set priorities, encourage innovation, and learn from each other.The

Summit must seize this opportunity to push not just for more, but for smarter investments. For private enterprise to thrive, public enterprises must work more efficiently – weighing how each dollar can provide the most benefit to individuals and communities. For California to achieve its laudable goals to protect our environment, grow our economy, and maintain the public’s health and safety, the state must evaluate the results of public spending, build confidence in what we can accomplish together, and even consider new revenue sources to pay for the investments that will do the most for a sustainable California economy.

We believe the Summit provides Californians with a place to have this conversation – and an opportunity to make real progress. The Summit’s expanding network has proven effective and has demonstrated real success. We urge you to continue this work – with an eye, always, to the horizon.

George P. Shultz – Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Leon Panetta – The Panetta Institute for Public Policy


George P. Shultz and Leon Panetta

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