"People always say bringing Democrats and Republicans [together] is the biggest challenge. I sleep with a Democrat every night."
After a rousing welcome by California CIO Teri Takai, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to a capacity crowd at the Government Technology Conference's 2008 Conference on California's Future this morning. The governor began his keynote speech with a reference to the Strategic Growth Plan he helped pass in 2006. The legislation will deliver $42 billion to California in the form of infrastructure renewal projects. Schwarzenegger noted that IT is a central part of the state's infrastructure plan, earning him the first of several standing ovations.
In his usual affable style, the governor immediately won over the crowd even as he spelled out the significant challenges facing California.
"I like to talk about the future of California and my vision for California," he said. "There's a lot of uncertainty here. But in California, when it comes to our future, we are really strong."
Schwarzenegger tasked the crowd to return to the future-building strategies of generations past, lest the state fall further behind. "Our grandparents built California's world-class facilities," he said. "But the sad part is, 40 years ago, it stopped."
Before such rebuilding can proceed, the governor cautioned that the state must be in good fiscal health. Once that occurs, Schwarzenegger predicted California would require $500 billion over 20 years to restore the state to its former grandeur.
Schwarzenegger said that technology is pivotal to any plans the state has or might make in terms of rebuilding California. Furthermore, the governor continued to champion the use and development of this critical technology but added that at the same time the state must up its commitment to green technology. The governor said he believes that green technology is where California will once again be a world leader.
"I believe California will be the first state to be energy independent," he said. "And, we will do this while still fighting global warming."
Schwarzenegger also called on the audience to push harder for other innovative technology to improve the state. Electronic health records and e-prescriptions, he said, will go a long way to reducing medical errors. The governor asked that deploying high-speed broadband technology throughout the state remain a central focus. And, to the delight of the crowd, the governor also said government itself should have the latest technology so it can do its job better.
"California should always be No. 1, not 10 or 15. I hate that," Schwarzenegger said, eliciting laughs and a round of applause. He went on to praise the power of GIS technology -- citing examples from the 2007 Southern California wildfires -- and lauded the state agencies that had automated processes and made transactions available online.
Wrapping up, the governor mentioned again that the budget is the central challenge that must be overcome in California. And he knocked the suggestion that it is too hard to get Republicans and Democrats to work together for a solution.
"People always say bringing Democrats and Republicans together is the biggest challenge. I sleep with a Democrat every night," the Republican governor said, drawing his speech toward a close with perhaps the most memorable line of the week.