Carl Guardino is the president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which has more than 375 member companies.

Viewpoints: How president can champion innovators

Published: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 - 11:00 pm | Page 5E
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 - 8:27 am

Silicon Valley CEOs have helped both presidential candidates, but will both presidential candidates help Silicon Valley?

When it comes to Silicon Valley and America's innovation economy, here are the issues we need the next commander in chief to champion from the Oval Office. Spoiler alert: You heard little to nothing about these issues in the three presidential debates.

Skilled workforce. Americans deserve a great education system for our kids around the country and a smart immigration system to attract the smartest kids from around the globe. It's not one or the other; it's both. Nineteen of every 20 people in the world are born outside of the United States. We would be beyond arrogant to believe there are not smart people born outside the United States, and we want them working with us rather than competing against us. Today, 54 percent of Silicon Valley companies have a foreign-born CEO or founder. Highly skilled workers, often trained in our own universities, are to be cherished, not chased away after graduation.

Globally competitive tax policies. Our business tax rates are the highest of any competitor nation and have not been updated since 1986. And the United States is the only developed nation that taxes both foreign and home country income earnings. With a new territorial tax system, U.S. businesses could operate under the same rules as competitor countries by taxing only U.S. income.

National cybersecurity policy. The federal government needs a secure global digital infrastructure to ensure economic growth, efficiencies of services and protection of our citizens. We need a national policy that also proactively engages America's tech companies to leverage the public-private partnerships that produces cybersecurity safeguards for all Americans. The private sector owns and operates 85 percent of the critical cyber infrastructure in the United States. The continued partnership will expand our economy and safeguard our national security.

Comprehensive energy policy. This needs to include traditional sources while increasingly working toward more renewable sources. The cost of energy – to fuel our automobiles; energize our transit systems; light, heat and cool our building and our homes – is a major expense for both families and businesses. With implications for both our national security and economic strength, energy independence needs to move from rhetoric to reality. Providing a target, like a renewable portfolio standard, and then allowing creative companies and communities the flexibility to achieve it, would be a great start.

Infrastructure. This includes roads, transit, water, broadband deployment and our electrical grid. It also includes research and development in our world-class universities and R&D tax credits for globally competitive companies. Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower boldly proposed and funded our nation's interstate highway system. Sixty years later, our infrastructure in all forms is crumbling. It is time to reinvest. And yes, that means paying for it. At a minimum, let our current gasoline tax rise with the rate of inflation.

Health care costs. Whether people support the president's Affordable Care Act or not, it was passed, signed and upheld by the Supreme Court. As the law is implemented, we must renew efforts to ensure it lives up to its title, "affordable," both for families as well as employees and employers. In addition, Congress must reconsider the ill-conceived decision to tax medical device companies: employers who are actually driving innovation that, in turn, can help drive down health care costs.

Both presidential candidates come often to Silicon Valley and the Golden State, but all too often treat us like an ATM. They need to also take our ideas if we are to grow America's innovation economy and create jobs.

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