Governor-elect Gavin Newsom will take office under far different economic circumstances than his predecessor Jerry Brown. Far from the days of careening budget deficits, a housing market in collapse and an economy on the ropes, Newsom takes the reins at a time of surplus, record job creation and rising standing among global economies.
But underlying the glowing economic data are persistent and growing poverty rates, a shrinking middle class, home prices that are far out of reach for many and a gap between rich and poor that is among the largest in the country.
Given these stark differences in Californians’ economic realities, we hope Governor-elect Newsom would consider the following as he looks to tackle one of the world’s largest economies in a society undergoing tremendous transformation.
What are our economic goals as a state in the next 5 to 10 years?
California hasn’t had a plan for what we want our economy to be or how to get there for some time. We need to consider the industries that are growing and those that are dying; the industries our policies built and the industries they have hindered. What are those areas that provide a competitive advantage while best positioning us for the global economy and the future of work? Perhaps most importantly, will these plans focus on developing statewide goals or on the state’s many diverse regions — recognizing that reaching 3 percent unemployment in Modesto is a much different task than achieving 3 percent unemployment in San Francisco.
How will you handle stakeholder involvement in achieving those goals?
The past twenty years are replete with examples of blue-ribbon commissions, task forces and think tank reports that have suggested ‘reforms’ of government agencies tasked with economic impacts. Most of these have buckled under their own weight. It is time to transcend systems that encourage rigid departmental structures and outmoded financing mechanisms and put a new focus on connectivity, integration and partnership with the public and private sectors — including creating entirely new education systems to prepare for new economic realities.
How will you ensure diverse representation in the advancement of all Californians across all sectors of our economy and educational systems?
Governor Newsom will be the first in our state’s history to take office when whites are not an ethnic plurality. We cannot continue to boast about job growth and having the world’s fifth-largest economy while also having the deepest poverty problem in America. Part of the problem is just five percent of our high-tech workforce is comprised of Latinos and African Americans. We can ill afford to trumpet our spectacular job growth when the vast majority of that growth is happening at the highest skill levels and the lowest-paying service sectors – leaving the middle class shrinking for the first time in nearly a century.
Our economy will face unprecedented transformation in the next four years as we consider technologies like driverless cars, the sharing economy and the redefinition of what ‘work’ means.
California birthed many of the technologies that are redefining our daily experiences and our very lives. The next Governor should be asking how our state government can be transformed to do the same.