The Capitol today is like entering an alternative reality. Staffers are energetically preparing new regulations and energy taxes — cap and trade by some estimates could cost already burdened California businesses $1 billion or more. Sure, there have been some tweaks to CEQA and there is the governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
But reform to the much-abused California Environmental Quality Act — which contributed greatly to the loss of Lucasfilm’s Grady Ranch project in Marin County — is all-but-dead in an election year. Amazingly, apparently some people in Sacramento actually like the insufferable delaying mechanisms in CEQA because, they reportedly say, it means all constituencies will have time to put in their two cents, even if they apparently have nothing constructive to contribute.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in the Capitol openly admit they have stopped talking to each other.
Oh, and did someone mention the state has a $16 billion budget hole.
All of this would understandably put this person firmly in the camp that believes “California is ungovernable.”
But then he watched an incredible speech at Ted.com, a site that carries interesting and inspiring videos of thought leaders. He was preparing for a conference where a talk by X-Prize Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis would be shown.
In the talk, Mr. Diamandis talks about a “Future of Abundance” largely driven by technological innovation. Start with that iPhone in your pocket. In 1978, it would have cost $4 billion. Innovation occurring today, Mr. Diamandis says, will transform energy production and provide new supplies of drinking water to the entire planet. Three-dimensional printing will allow local manufacturing, perhaps in people’s homes. Technology will provide new medicines, treatments and remote diagnostic tools not dreamed of a decade ago. Billions of people are and will be brought into the global conversation — and economy — via cellphones and other forms of communication and goods movement.
“I’m not saying we don’t have our set of problems — climate crisis, species extinction, water and energy shortage — we surely do,” Mr. Diamandis said. But “ultimately we knock them down.”
Which brings us back the state budget crisis and dysfunction in Sacramento.
Yes, the state has its problems. But it is still home to some of the greatest thinkers and innovators anyhere in the world. The state is by far the leading center of venture capital investment and is home to many of the world’s great universities and think tanks. As panels of speakers at the North Bay Leadership Council conference May 31 focused on California’s Bright Future, the North Bay and the Bay Area — with all their challenges — have an educated and affluent population and companies and organizations poised to shape the future.
Sacramento’s dysfunction and budget deficit — which receive unending and out-sized attention — have unnecessary and unfortunate impacts on people and companies.
But the Capitol is not California. To put it in perspective, consider that California’s total economic output is about $1.9 trillion annually. So Sacramento’s budget deficit is a mere fraction of a percent of California’s productive assets, a blip on the screen of a vast and diverse state. It is just one more challenge to knock down.
Take Mr. Diamandis’s word for it. There can be an abundant future if we dream of it.
Brad Bollinger is the editor and associate publisher of the Journal. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He was a moderator at the May 31 North Bay Leadership Council Economic Insight Conference where Mr. Diamandis’s talk was shown.
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