Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom sat down with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board last week to discuss a wide range of issues facing the state. Here are edited excerpts of a few of the topics discussed.
Future of higher education
The challenge now should be to look at (the UC, CSU and community college systems) differently. This conveyor belt for talent is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of our workforce. We are falling further and further behind. And it’s code red, and it’s not getting attention. It’s frustrating.
What’s the purpose of higher education? What’s the point of continuing to fund an institution at scale that’s insufficient to meet the needs of a radically changing state? And that’s the conversation that I think we are missing.
You’ve got to reimagine, not just reform, you’ve got to rethink. It’s not just about going back to the Master Plan of the 1960s. A college degree now is the equivalent of a high school degree. And that’s the profound nature of the scale of our problem.
We’ve built something that is the envy of the world, but it may just not meet the needs of the world we are entering into. So, how do we internally redesign it and what are the risks of doing that?
We are living in a world that the idea of building large edifices and bucolic lawns with beautiful clock towers is a wonderful, nostalgic view, but I don’t necessarily think it meets the reality of the world we’re living in or the world we’re entering into.
Taxes and tax reform
Our personal income tax is high. It’s high because we have relative stability with property taxes. Your corporate tax rates, your income tax rates, your capital gains taxes, all these are high. If you want to have a conversation about one, then you want to have a conversation about the other, sales tax included, but no one wants to have that conversation.
We’re not having a sustainable conversation about what is our tax system. We need to have this grown-up conversation, not just internally, but have it with the public about what’s at stake.
We are taxing an economy that we were taxing 100 years ago, and that economy doesn’t exist as it did 100 years ago. I think it’s a tough conversation because you have every interest group here that doesn’t want to have it, because they have some benefit, some extraction, some gain that they fought hard and spent a lot of money on.
We have not done justice to the conversation that we should have been having for the last five years, 10 years about radically reforming our tax system in this state.
I am committed to looking at structural reform in this state. I don’t think that structural reform is overrated; I think it’s profoundly difficult.
Marijuana and banking
I think if California approves recreational marijuana it will have such a pronounced and profound impact on this debate that we will be in the vanguard of our ability to legislate some solutions around that, meaning we’ll have the ability to make a case that you have now contiguous three states in the western part of the United States that have all adopted a legalization platform and strategy.
We’ll have, I think, a heft in Congress to begin to loosen up some of those rules and regulations, get this off Schedule 1 status and allow Congress to soften the edges of those financial restrictions.