Remarks by Russell Gould
Senior Vice President of Wachovia Bank
Sacramento Host Breakfast
May 22, 2007
Good Morning. It is a privilege to be before you and share my perspective on the role and future direction of the California Chamber of Commerce.
I look out this morning and see a number of people from the business community, the public sector, and community leaders and recognize that my career has allowed me to venture into the same areas.
For those from the Sacramento Host Committee, I am one of your native sons, born in Sacramento and raised not far from here. One of my early remembrances is of my father, a second-generation plumber who worked for the State at the Capitol building and who considered the small brick building on 12th and L Street in the capitol lawn, “his” office.
My father gave me the best and most direct advice at the age of 8. Upon viewing my mechanical skills while working on repairing my bicycle, he strongly encouraged me to go to college and get a desk job.
I took his advice and entered the University of California at Berkeley, which provided an education that exposed me to a huge new world beyond that which I had experienced.
When I graduated from Berkeley, I had only two career goals; one was to be a Foreign Service officer, and the second - not move back to Sacramento. Poverty being a great motivator shortly led me to a position as a budget analyst in State Government in Sacramento while I sorted out my next set of career goals.
From my initial start in State Government, I ultimately was given the opportunity to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Director of Finance under Governor Pete Wilson. As you may recall, during Pete Wilson’s first term, CA was mired in a deep recession in which CA lost over 700,000 jobs. I still remember the Governor pulling me aside and telling me that we were going to bring California back one job at a time. As it was his re-election year, he was very clear that we should start with his job and mine. His leadership in recognizing the importance of jobs and a strong economy was never lost on me. I take great pride in my public service and have great memories of raising my family in Sacramento.
I left government over 10 years ago to become a partner in a small investment management company that grew to five successful companies and ultimately were sold to investment firms including Wachovia Bank. The opportunity to put your ideas and commitment to a private venture was a great learning experience. It also allowed me to fully experience the challenges business leaders face today in trying to make it while facing intense worldwide competition.
These varied careers shaped my view that it takes all of us from the public and private sector to preserve what California has to offer. Maybe it is from my past experiences, but I am passionate about public policy and California’s economic future. I was drawn to the California Chamber as the state’s leading business organization because it is a broad-based business group with members on essentially every Main Street and board room throughout the state. A group that looks at issues with a big picture view focused on California jobs and long-term economic development, not the perspective of any one industry or geographic region of the state.
The California Chamber is at the front line to ensure that we sustain this vibrant economy. The CalChamber’s presence is built on principles, not on politics. Similar to the Governor’s call to an era of post-partisanship, the CalChamber is focused on sound fundamentals, not on political affiliation. The CalChamber today represents 16,000 companies and 25 percent of private sector jobs in the state. The 120-year history of the CalChamber is focused on long-established principles. I would like to speak to six principles established by our founders:
1. Protect and encourage economic development:
The CalChamber is focused on common sense policies that make it affordable to do business in California.
The CalChamber has promoted common-sense work place reforms, such as the 40-hour work week, to put us on the same footing as our worldwide competition. We have also played defense in identifying 40 job killer bills introduced by the State Legislature in 2006, and with Governor Schwarzenegger’s support we have had great success in defeating those initiatives with only two becoming law.
Workers’ compensation reform: We were in strong support of Governor Schwarzenegger when he pulled together the varied interests and achieved comprehensive reforms his first year in office – reforms that have resulted in both improved benefits and billions of dollars in savings to multiple sectors of the economy, not just business.
2. Exert leadership in areas relating to public finance
The CalChamber consistently pushes for bipartisan agreement on expenditures and supports the Constitution's required two-thirds majority vote on tax increases and the state budget. We recognize that proposals lacking long-term funding represent a significant detrimental economic and job impact on our State.
In addition, last June we successfully opposed a personal income tax increase which would have established a costly and ill conceived massive new preschool bureaucracy.
In November there were four other proposals to increase taxes on the ballot, and the voters agreed with our opposition.
3. Support adequate transportation facilities
The CalChamber is a longtime advocate for a transportation network that can support our economy by efficiently moving people, goods, and services. We have supported bonds to fund investments in our streets, highways and transit, and helped lead the 2002 campaign that won overwhelming support (70% yes) for a proposition to require that the sales tax on gasoline be dedicated to transportation.
The CalChamber has maintained a constant call for increased infrastructure investment, including our support and leadership on the comprehensive $19.9 billion bond package on last November’s ballot that was overwhelmingly approved by the voters.
4. Encourage economic research on issue that affect government:
To meet this goal the CalChamber has revitalized the California Foundation for Commerce and Education to serve as a not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank. Our initial areas of research include health care reform and education. This foundation’s independent work will help frame the most important economic and public policy issues of the day.
5. Support development of the state’s education resources:
The CalChamber has been a strong proponent of a K-12 system that provides fundamental skills necessary for movement into higher education or joining the workforce. We also support a K-12 system that must be held accountable for success.
The CalChamber has also been a strong supporter of the master plan for higher education and funding which ensures the continued excellence of these institutions. The CalChamber recognizes the critical role of our community colleges and both technical and transfer education. We compliment Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts in revitalizing vocational education and providing support and respect for those that perform these important jobs.
We strongly support the California State University System, the largest public university in the US, and its vital role in training our teachers and other professionals in the workforce.
The CalChamber also recognizes that the vital importance of our high tech industry, born in the Silicon Valley, and our expanding bio tech industry would not be possible without our exceptional research universities under the banner of the University of California.
As an indication of our support for higher education, the CalChamber Board has four members who serve on the governing boards of the Community Colleges, the California University System, and the University of California.
6. Support policies that serve the public benefit for all Californians.
This year we have appreciated the Governor’s leadership to focus us on the complex world of health care. While solutions are hard to find in this area, we do have strong reservations about a single government run health care bureaucracy. We also continue to support discussions of how to ensure that children and those individuals with pre-existing conditions who are often barred from health care coverage are a priority.
On the environmental front, we have a long history of speaking out to be sure environmental measures balance benefits with costs, and steering the State toward approaches that permit the full ingenuity of industry to help devise solutions.
The CalChamber also continues to support political reform efforts to change our current method of reapportionment. The public will never have confidence in a redistributing process with the inherent conflict of being by politicians and for politicians.
The CalChamber must continue to take a big picture wide-angle lens approach to these issues and determine what is good for the whole. These principles will guide the CalChamber, not for a single year, or for a governor’s term, but for the long run.
I think Ronald Reagan had it right when upon receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House in 1993 he said “Presidents come and go, history comes and goes, but principles endure.”
When you boil it down, California is built on a promise of opportunity. First, that people can find good jobs and places to live that help them raise their families. Secondly, the same opportunity must be there for our children to develop and achieve their own goals
In many ways, California is a great social experiment — population built of immigrants with no majority population, a melting pot of people with the same dreams and aspirations. We are blessed with our geography and a land of great beauty and rich soil. Its entrepreneurs led this State to have the most diverse economy in the United States. While having these gifts, it will take a commitment from the business community to be an active positive force in assuring that the California dream is preserved.
Let me close with my final Ronald Reagan quote: “We are the showcase of the future. It is within our power to mold the future, this year and for years to come. It can be as grand and as great as we make it. No crisis is beyond the capacity of our people to solve, no challenge too great.”
Please join me in the commitment to a California built on sound principles that establishes opportunities for all who strive to succeed. Whether you are from business, a community leader or a public servant, we must all take up the challenge to be engaged at the state and local levels, to bring about solutions and make CA an exceptional place to live and do business for generations to come.