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Think Long Committee for California
Berggruen convened an initial meeting of the group on October 27, 2010, at the campus of Google. At that meeting, he announced that he would contribute at least $20 million to support campaigns that would enact into law the ideas that the Think Long committee comes up with. It is envisioned that these ideas would be enacted into law either through the state's ballot initiative process or through the California State Legislature.
Berggruen has written that the "Think Long Committee plan seeks to modernize California's system of governance by installing a new civic software more suited to the realities of the decades ahead."
Nathan Gardels is a spokesperson for the group.
2012 ballot propositions
- See also: California 2012 ballot propositions
According to the Sacramento Bee, Berggruen "has assembled a small group of high-profile leaders in business and politics to craft proposals for long-term structural changes. Working with the Legislature or through the initiative process, he plans to qualify the proposals for the 2012 ballot."
In November 2011, the group announced that it planned to submit an initiative proposal for the state's November 2012 ballot that, if approved, would raise taxes in the state by $10 billion. Then, in January 2012, the group announced that it expected to delay putting a tax hike initiative on the state's ballot until 2014. The group issued a statement that said:
It is clear from public reaction, stakeholder meetings and our own public opinion research that Californians are hungry for real reform and are more willing than ever to support a sweeping plan that is fair and will put an end to California's perpetual financial volatility and suffocating wall of debt. At the same time, we recognize the practical constraints of the 2012 election calendar – and have come to the conclusion that it will take more time to perfect these proposals, eliminate unintended consequences and provide every stakeholder and everyday Californians a meaningful voice in that process."
A number of other tax hike initiatives have been proposed for the state's 2012 ballot and the "Think Long" group announced that in addition to withdrawing its 2012 proposal in favor of 2014, it would nevertheless "partner with other organizations by generously supporting one or more" of the competing tax hike measures. Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase proposal is considered to be the most likely alternative proposal for the "Think Long" billionaires to support.
The group said in November 2011 that it would qualify an initiative for the 2012 ballot that would "create a new independent commission tasked with oversight and long-term planning for the state."
Berggruen wrote in November 2011 that the organization has adopted these goals:
- A "rainy day" reserve fund to multiyear budgeting.
- Two-year legislative sessions with one year dedicated to oversight.
- Transparency on initiative funding.
- K-12 school reform.
- "Aligning the skills and educational outcomes of California's master plan institutions with the needs of our cutting-edge industry; and speeding up regulatory approval to foster job creation."
- Return "decision-making power and resources where appropriate from Sacramento to localities and regions where the real economy functions and government is closer to the people – and thus more responsive, flexible and accountable."
- Create "an independent watchdog for the long-term public interest as a counterbalance to the short-term mentality and special interest political culture that dominate Sacramento."
- Update "California's tax system to mirror the real composition of our modern service and information economy and provide a stable, broad-based tax system that is sustainable over the long term."
- "we would reduce rates across the board for every bracket and reduce the sales tax on goods from 5 percent to 4.5 percent while broadening the sales tax at a 5 percent rate to apply to services, which are more discretionary. Education and medical care would be exempted."
- The editorial board of the Sacramento Bee wrote, "This editorial board has long been leery of initiatives, and we certainly understand why many are angry about wealth disparities that have grown wider since the recession. Yet Californians shouldn't reflexively reject a reform measure because its backers are wealthy. Instead, we should welcome the energy behind any and all efforts to fix California's governance and finances, and recognize that any change in the status quo will require not only strong grass-roots support, but substantial financial backing."
- The editorial board of the Orange County Register wrote in November 2011, "Amid much fanfare, the Think Long Committee for California – a good-government committee backed by a billionaire – just released its "Blueprint to Renew California" after spending a year studying the state's endemic fiscal problems. Its main solution: Revise the tax code and impose $10 billion in tax increases on California's already hard-pressed taxpayers. It took a year and some of the state's most influential voices to come up with this nonsense?"
- Steven Greenhut, a political columnist, wrote, "The committee is a who's who of the California political establishment. Members include Davis and Willie Brown and included input from Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. One won't find many real reformers in the bunch. The only thing sillier than expecting this group to fix what ails California is the big idea unveiled by the committee, which amounts to a $10 billion annual tax increase on California residents. After a year, the best it could do is come up with a plan based on the same failed ideas that are fashionable in the Capitol all the time ---- hiking taxes on ordinary Californians to spare the state bureaucracy the pain of the cutting knife. That isn't thinking long. It's thinking small."
- Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association said, "The Think Long Committee Report was supposed to be a bipartisan path to rebuilding California's future, not a dangerous detour that would hurt students and the poor. Educators are alarmed by these recommendations to raise taxes on the poor, lower taxes for corporations, dismantle Proposition 98 - the state's minimum school funding law - and avoid repaying $10 billion already owed to public schools and students."
- Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said, "It looks like a $10 billion tax increase, and I don’t think there’s any way on God’s green earth that voters will approve that."
The Think Long Committee had 14 members as of late December 2010. They are:
- Nicolas Berggruen
- Eli Broad
- Willie Brown
- Gray Davis
- Maria Elena Durazo, a union activist who has worked with the AFL-CIO and UNITE-HERE
- Matthew K. Fong
- Ron George, former chief justice of the California Supreme Court
- Antonia Hernandez
- Robert (Bob) Hertzberg
- Gerry Parsky
- Condoleezza Rice
- Eric Schmidt (chief executive of Google)
- George Schultz
- Terry Semel
- Laura Tyson
The offices of the Think Long committee are housed in the Beverly Hills office of the Berggruen Institute.
- Website of the Think Long committee
- "A Blueprint to Renew California: Report and Recommendations Presented by the Think Long Committee for California"
- Los Angeles Times, "Bid to remake California state government finds major benefactor," October 27, 2010
- Sacramento Bee, "The Conversation: Thinking long about state's future," November 20, 2011
- Los Angeles Times, "Billionaires, insiders plan to place $10-billion tax hike on 2012 California ballot," November 20, 2011
- Sacramento Bee, "Nicolas Berggruen invests in California governance," December 25, 2010
- Los Angeles Times, "Group of billionaires, political insiders postpones November tax initiative," January 17, 2012
- Sacramento Bee, "'Think Long Committee for California' backs away from tax measure," January 17, 2012
- Sacramento Bee, "Will 2012 be a pileup for reform initiatives?," November 27, 2011
- Desert Dispatch, "'Think Long' plan comes up short," November 27, 2011
- North County Times, "GREENHUT: 'Think Long' report short on serious ideas," November 27, 2011
- Sacramento Bee, "California Teachers Association opposes Think Long Committee's new tax measure," November 23, 2011
- New York Times, "In California, Asking Voters to Raise Taxes," November 30, 2011