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Schwarzenegger — The Remake

What ambitions does Arnold Schwarzenegger have for California and how does he plan to realize them?

January 11, 2006

What ambitions does Arnold Schwarzenegger have for California and how does he plan to realize them?

After riding into office on a wave of public resentment against politics as usual, California's Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has had a rough time in office. In his 2006 State of the State speech, he laid out his vision for moving forward. For a formerly self-ascribed fiscal conservative, he had some surprising things to say.

What is the vision that drives you forward?

“We must remember that this is the state that represents a dream. If you talk about the Illinois dream or the Delaware dream or the Kentucky dream, no one would know what you meant or what you’re talking about.”

“But our dream — the California dream — means something. People understand it. It is the means to a better life, where anything is possible — no matter where you came from, no matter who you are. This is what people understand. This is what draws them here. This is why I came here.”

Beyond the politics of the day, which key questions do you want voters to focus on?

“Let me ask you, what California do you want in 20 or 30 years? What kind of highways will we drive on? What kind of schools will our children attend? What kind of jobs will we have? What kind of air will we breathe? And what kind of hospitals will care for our sick?”

And how would you describe California’s biggest problems at present?

“Our systems are at the breaking point now. We need more roads, more hospitals, more schools, more nurses, more teachers, more police, more fire fighters, more water, more energy, more ports, more, more, more.”

What do you plan to do about these shortcomings?

“In recent decades, California has invested piecemeal, crisis by crisis, traffic jam by traffic jam. There is a better way, a smarter way, a more fiscally responsible way to invest in our future.”

“We cannot spend more than we have. But at the same time, we cannot afford costly delay in investing in critical infrastructure. The reality is that we face more than $500 billion in infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.”

“Half a century ago, our predecessors faced exactly the same challenges, but they still planned for our future. And now, it is our turn. The need is urgent, but this is not just about keeping up — it is about growing with strength and confidence and moving ahead.”

You call for massive increases in investment. How can you justify those outlays from a financial vantage point?

“Think of California as a mutual fund — in particular, a growth fund. Why do we invest in a growth fund? Because we believe in the economic future. So I ask each of you: Do you believe in California’s economic future? Well, then we must invest in it. If we do not invest in ourselves, how can we expect others to invest in us?”

Meanwhile, what do you plan to do for the poorest Californians?

“When I ran for governor, I said that we could not afford an increase in the minimum wage unless the economy bounced back. Well, the economy has bounced back, so it is now time for those who often work the hardest and earn the least to benefit from California’s growth. So let us increase the minimum wage by $1 an hour, with half starting in 2006.”

How do you look at California in the age of globalization?

“We are perched on the Pacific — looking across to a continent where there is tremendous economic growth. California is better placed to be a leader in the global future than any other state in the union. We have the outlook, the innovation, the technology, the people. We have the location.”

Is China a threat?

“I was in China recently. What a sight. Construction cranes fill the sky. Over a billion people work and save and study.”

“Now, we all know that China has enormous problems — environmental, social, political — problems much larger than ours. But they are preparing for a global future. Do we not have the same ability to think as dynamically and optimistically about our people’s future? Of course, we do.”

In conclusion, what’s your biggest worry then?

“California is already on the leading edge of the global economy and it’s changing and growing by leaps and bounds. And yet, we will let this advantage slip from our fingers if we don’t make the long-term investment in our ports, our roads, our schools, our information systems — and all the other infrastructure required to compete in a world that thrives on innovation.”

Adapted from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 State of the State Address, delivered in Sacramento, California on January 5, 2006. For the complete text, click here.