Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor and a candidate for governor in 2018, was asked in a San Francisco forum last week to name the three issues that will make the biggest difference in California’s future. Newsom, who is also a former mayor of San Francisco, predicted that both California and the nation will be grappling with these issues over the next ten years:
- Debt and demographics. With California’s population aging rapidly, the state and its cities face growing public employee pension and health care liabilities. “As a progressive Democrat, I’m not naïve about the commitments we’ve made and the commitments we must fulfill,” Newsom said. “Nor am I naïve, as a former mayor, about the challenge of meeting those commitments . . . Cities like Richmond are facing the prospect that by 2021, by one estimate, upwards of 40% of their general fund will go to retiree contributions.”
- Energy and climate change. The state has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency. “The next governor has to deliver,” he said.
- Information technology and globalization. “The issue that animates my anxiety: work, the future of work.” The days of having a job or career have given way to something radically different, forcing us to think in terms of portable benefits and retirement security, he said. Further, workers in retail, food and beverage, and clerical jobs—the top employment categories—are on the “edge of automation.” Displacement of these workers will require us to have a different conversation about skills, education, and social mobility, Newsom said.
The conversation with Newsom was part of the PPIC Speaker Series on California’s Future. PPIC is inviting all major candidates for governor to participate in a public event if they reach a certain threshold in the polls. The goal is to give Californians a better understanding of how the candidates intend to address the challenges facing our state.