Schwarzenegger pleads for public-private infrastructure investments

Public-private partnerships can produce ‘miracles’ in a state that needs more than $500bn in infrastructure investments, California’s celebrity governor said at the Milken Institute’s conference.

Infrastructure might not be “sexy”, but legislators and the public must understand its economic importance and embrace public-private partnerships, said Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s Republican governor.

“What’s important is to explain to people what [a public-private partnership] really is. That it’s not a threat” to unions or public employees, he said.

California alone will need more than $500 billion (€320 billion) in infrastructure investments over the next 20 years, Schwarzenegger said. He made the comments during a discussion with Michael Milken, the former “junk bond king” of Drexel Burnham Lambert, at the Milken Institute’s annual conference in Los Angeles.

I think miracles happen when the public sector and the private sector work together

Arnold Schwarzenegger

As Milken pointed out, Schwarzenegger was speaking before numerous investment firm partners already investing heavily in infrastructure assets.

Though the celebrity governor succeeded in getting legislators and voters to approve some $42 billion in bonds, California's vast infrastructure needs will not be able to be entirely financed this way, he said. “I think miracles happen when the public sector and the private sector work together.”

Infrastructure construction throughout the US is too slow and encumbered by regulation as well as a legal framework often abused by no-growth proponents, he said. The failure of New Orleans’ levees following Hurricane Katrina and the collapse of a St. Louis bridge are prime examples of the nation’s neglected infrastructure, he said.

To highlight the US’ need for public-private partnership infrastructure projects, Schwarzenegger has teamed with Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, a Democrat, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent. The trio are calling for greater investment, while hoping to educate the public and enlist the support of other governors.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “Let’s do what’s best for our states and our country.”

Schwarzenegger also applauded venture capital’s attention on renewable energy and cleantech investments and plugged VC-backed Tesla Motors’ soon-to-be released electric roadster. “Technology will save us all,” he said.