Stump Speech for Bill Simon

California is a special place, isn’t it? Not only is it a place of breathtaking natural beauty – with its long coastline, tall mountain ranges, and temperate climate. It is also a place of cultural enrichment – with its diverse cities, world-class museums, and highly-rated colleges. California is where ideas and trends are born in science and the in the arts and in industries ranging from technology to agriculture to entertainment, news, and fashion. Other states – even other countries – take their ‘cues’ from California.

My wife Cindy and I love California. I’m originally from New Jersey – the land of “forget-about-it!” and Cindy is from Indiana – the Hoosier State. And while those are great places, too – it only took us about 15 minutes to decide that we wanted to stay when we came to help my father and brother set up our family’s investment business 15 years ago. Cindy and I were recently in Philadelphia looking for a school for our son, and whenever we had an opportunity to tell someone that we were from California, they would smile. And when they asked “Where in California?” We would say “Los Angeles” and they would say “Cool!”

But California is becoming unlivable for many of its citizens. California led the nation for decades in almost all of the important quality of life categories, but now we’re finding that it leads the nation in an increasing number of inauspicious ones. California is trending in the wrong direction. We are becoming an example of what not to do. Our once exemplary system of public education, is now a model of mediocrity that is failing our children. Our once vibrant economy, is now listless and sputtering. Our once gleaming Golden State, is now tarnished and broke.

Why is California in this mess? Carl Sandburg coined a memorable poetic phrase: “the fog comes on little cat feet.” And the image is analogous to what happened in Sacramento during the last half of the last decade, when our state’s coffers over-flowed, the Democrats over-spent and over-promised and no one cared to notice – not even our current treasurer. Now we’re drowning in debt with no way to pay for it.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that California is beset with problems of epic proportions. I described these problems in excruciating detail during my campaign for governor, and what was true then is true today – the people of California expect better and deserve better from their government in Sacramento. And that’s why I’m running for state treasurer.

A treasurer’s first qualification is an obvious one – he or she should be good with money. The treasurer is the state’s banker – investing and borrowing on behalf of the state. I have a long track record in this area. Unlike anyone else in this race, I actually manage money. You want a treasurer who knows the value of a buck. And you want people in state government who value your money the way you value it.
The treasurer’s office is not a place for on the job training. Let me throw a few numbers at you – a few big numbers. The California state budget is more than $100 billion. We are more than $55 billion in debt. And we have infrastructure needs of more than $180 billion. Now do you have any doubt that California needs a treasurer who knows the value of a buck?! Or needs a governor who knows the value of a buck?! Or needs more legislators who know the value of a buck?!

California needs a strong fiscal leader, not a career politician, in this important job at this critical time. I have nearly 30 years of experience making successful investments, running profitable businesses, and negotiating with the toughest dealmakers on Wall Street.

I will be a hands-on treasurer, investing only in sound businesses without excessive regard to corporate governance, securing the best rate of return on your tax dollars, and borrowing funds at the lowest possible cost. I will work as a partner with the governor to raise California’s worst in the nation credit rating, reform the pension system, and balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending – not by raising taxes.

California is the most difficult place to achieve the American dream. Businesses and their employees are voting with their feet and fleeing California to neighboring states like Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Market forces are at play here.  Just as financial capital leaves failing companies, human capital leaves failing states. This trend will only continue unless we achieve drastic change in Sacramento.

In one of his books, my dad wrote that governments get into trouble when they “promise the eternal something for nothing.” That’s what we’ve done in California, especially in the areas of entitlement spending and public pension benefits. The role of government is not to create wealth, but to create an environment where private enterprise can flourish.

As treasurer, I would champion the cause of business in California, particularly small businesses. Small firms represent about 99 percent of employers, employ about half of the private sector workforce, and generate between 60 to 80% of net new jobs.

The small business owner is like the canary in the mineshaft. Because they are vital to our prosperity – and ultimately our tax revenue – we must take steps to assist small businesses and the hard working people they employ by reducing taxes, encouraging investment, and removing obstacles to growth.
High tax rates inhibit entrepreneurial activity because they act as a tax on success, claiming a larger share of income from flourishing enterprises, while the government shares little of the risk of loss. For most entrepreneurs, taxes reduce their companies’ cash flow – the money businesses need to expand, buy more equipment, and hire more workers.

Winston Churchill, during his last campaign for Parliament, vividly described the importance of private enterprise. In October 1959, Churchill spoke at a rally. “Among our socialist friends there is great confusion about private enterprise,” he said. “Some see it as a predatory animal like a tiger to be shot. Others see it as a cow to be milked. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong and willing horse that pulls the whole cart of the economy along.”

The state treasurer also has the ability to influence public policy on financial matters before the governor’s office and the legislature. And I believe I can help Governor Schwarzenegger enact his reform agenda.

When I first started running for governor in 2001, I wasn’t a very good speaker. Now – although I’m still critical of my speaking skills – a lot of people tell me I’m much improved. When you run for governor against a Democratic incumbent with millions of dollars of lies to put on the airwaves – it’s not just a test of your speaking ability, it’s a test of character – and character counts. When I won the nomination, the so-called experts – some within our own party – said I didn’t have a chance to beat an incumbent Democrat who had some very powerful friends in his pocket. When all was said and done, I only lost by a few points despite being outspent 3 to 1. And they said “If I had known that you would get so close I would have supported you!” Yes, character counts.

It was a tough campaign, but I gained a great deal from the experience. And I’m very thankful for that because I know it gives me more of an opportunity to make my case to the people of California. My sole professional purpose remains the restoration of California to its rightful place as a first in the nation state.

I wasn’t afraid to describe myself as a conservative in that campaign because I knew the Republican Party in California was once again on its way to becoming a majority party. After all, the fastest growing counties in California are Republican counties. And our voter registration numbers show that these counties are becoming increasingly Republican. The Republican Party is on the road to recovery and we’re going to make sure the people of California recover with us!

Republicans are truly trying to reform the way government does business in Sacramento. The governor has taken on almost every major problem the people of California face and for his efforts has incurred the wrath of the labor unions – but whether it’s the budget deficit, gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts that are highly unrepresentative, public pension debt, or failing schools, he’s trying to do the right thing.

Paycheck protection is one reform we need to institute immediately. Paycheck protection is akin to bombing the enemy’s ammunition dump, as my friend former Governor Pete Wilson so aptly put it to me. Union members should be free to decide whether their dues can be used for political purposes. Redistricting is also an idea whose time has come – voters should choose their elected officials and not the other way around. Elections as they are currently conducted are in effect rigged at the outset. And, of course, budgetary reform is also needed.

We – as citizens of California – are now faced with a choice. We can continue on our current course. And we can see plainly where that’s leading. Or we can chart a course of reform and tackle each seemingly intractable problem one by one. The governor is leading us in this direction. We must follow him. And, as we do, we need to pay attention to where we get our news.

Most people in California still get their news from the television. And the issues that are debated daily in Sacramento are simply not covered on the evening television news. Californians see countless commercials by the unions saying the governor is trying to harm the people of California, when the truth is that he’s going out of his way to do the right thing. He is opposed at every turn by powerful interests profiting under the status quo at the expense of the vast majority of Californians.

Yet I still believe California’s best days are ahead because I have faith that a majority of Californians will come to believe that the Republican Party is the party of reform. Once the people are no longer entranced by what I heard a comedian describe as the ‘shiny news’ and find a means of educating themselves on the issues, the choice will be clear – that the governor’s reform agenda is the only course we can follow.

I’ve been blessed in life. Blessed with wonderful parents who truly believed the words “to whom much is given, much is expected.”  Blessed with a wonderful wife and with 4 wonderful children. The one blessing we as Californians and as Americans should always be most thankful for is the ability to determine our own future. And we need to act now in order to ensure a bright future here in California. I am thankful for our blessings and for my belief that the traditional values of faith, family, and freedom will see us through these tough times.

In March 1969, Dwight Eisenhower was dying at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC. One evening, he called his son John, who was in a suite on the floor below him. When John Eisenhower entered the room, he found his father lying in an oxygen tent. “Pull me up, Johnny,” he said. “Tell them, John, that I have always loved my wife, I’ve always loved my children, I’ve always loved my grandchildren, I’ve always loved my country, and I have always loved my God.”

Dwight Eisenhower’s life is just one example of how an abiding belief in the traditional values of faith, family, and freedom can serve as a guiding force that will give you spiritual rewards beyond belief.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless California.