SANTA CLARA -- Gov. Jerry Brown predicted a rebound for California's moribund economy on Friday and called for business and political leaders to collaborate to extricate the state from its economic and fiscal morass.
The governor was the headliner for an annual event by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group to discuss public policy. The meeting in Santa Clara brought together an estimated 1,200 business and political leaders.
"California is creating jobs at a rate that is 50 percent faster than the U.S.," the governor said during a panel discussion about economic and political issues. "But, of course, we started from the bottom. One of the good things about starting from the bottom is it feels so good when you are coming up."
At various times a cheerleader, pundit and political chief executive, Brown made a pitch for Proposition 30, which would impose higher income taxes on Californians with annual incomes of $250,000 or more, as well as institute a quarter-cent sales tax increase.
The governor says passage of Prop. 30 means state officials won't have to slash funding for education. Opponents of the measure say its passage would trigger job losses and fresh economic woes, including an exodus of businesses and affluent residents in a state that is already struggling.
Regardless of the fate of Prop. 30 after Tuesday's election, Brown said California is on the comeback trail. He dismissed critics who say the Golden State's best days have disappeared for good. He cited the Silicon Valley executives, entrepreneurs and risk takers in the audience as evidence that the state is in good shape.
"People say California is a failed state. But from where I sit, it doesn't look like a failed state," Brown said.
Reflecting on his first stint as governor from 1975 to 1983, Brown noted how California has grown and changed in dramatic ways. He noted that firms such as Apple (AAPL), Qualcomm, Google (GOOG), Netflix (NFLX), Facebook and Twitter didn't exist at the time.
"California is expanding," Brown said. "It's going to be a great place if we collaborate and work together. Let's keep going."
During the luncheon, the leadership group handed out lifetime achievement awards to Silicon Valley stalwarts John Doerr, a partner with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; and John Thompson, chief executive officer of Virtual Instruments and former CEO of Symantec.
"I really don't deserve this award. The entrepreneurs I backed are the ones who deserved it," Doerr said. "They changed the world into an app world, so you can like it, friend it, plus it and tweet it."
The panelists also discussed whether reforms should be instituted for the California Environmental Quality Act, commonly dubbed CEQA. Environmental leaders often tout the rules spawned by CEQA as necessary bulwarks against runaway development and urban sprawl that would harm the ecosystem. Developers and business leaders often criticize CEQA as a catalyst for red tape and regulations that drive up construction costs for homes and commercial buildings.
"We have a difficult time locating jobs in California because of CEQA," said David Cush, CEO of Virgin Airways. "We located a flight training center in Burlingame. But we have our call center in Washington state and heavy maintenance in Florida."
Brown said his top priorities for 2013 are controlling spending, water reliability and ensuring that utilities such as PG&E reach goals of 33 percent renewable energy.
"It's going to be an action-packed 2013," Brown said.
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.