As a teenager growing up, in the Central Valley, I saw the “Golden State” growing and its “golden glow” getting brighter.
Pat Brown served as California’s Governor from 1958 to 1966. His two terms were marked by an enormous water-resources development program. The California Aqueduct built as part of the program now bears his name. The decade-and-a-half construction of Interstate 5 Highway started in 1962.
Brown also presided over the enactment of the California Master Plan for Higher Education. The Plan was the basis for a substantial surge in development in California higher education. Today, many credit California’s universities for the place the state holds in the world economy, as well as bolstering its own economic makeup with great investment in high technology areas, such as Silicon Valley, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.
He sponsored some 40 major proposals, including fair employment legislation, a state economic development commission, and a consumers’ council; only five of which failed to pass in the Legislature. When Brown was Governor, the State invested seven percent of the General Fund in infrastructure.
California was a special place. Great universities, a model public school system, friendly pro-business economic climate, desirable climate, the state was the place to be in the United States. Our leaders were visionary, progressive, risk takers that had a grand plan for the future of the state.
50 years later, California has gone from the world’s leader in almost everything to a state that is bankrupt in nearly every way:
- Development of water resources is nonexistent.
- The State’s infrastructure is in disrepair.
- The Legislature has gutted California’s once proud higher education with draconian budget cuts requiring massive tuition increases.
- California’s public schools are now ranked at the bottom nationally.
- The State has dropped from best to worst in its climate for business development.
- The State’s leadership has no vision or plan for the state, responding to symptoms, crisis to crisis, without any understanding of the underlying causes.
- The Legislature has destroyed the state’s finances. Into 2012, state investment in infrastructure is .25 percent of the General Fund, while interest on debt exceeds 8 percent of the GF.
Our State leaders are fiddling while California is burning. We must elect leaders who are visionaries and able to prioritize and make tough decisions. We need leaders who understand that California needs to develop a great climate for business, to build a strong economy, to recreate the “Golden State.”