Sat10252014

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Campbell's balancing act: Former Congressman Tom Campbell juggles state budget, private life


Susanne and Tom Campbell take time out to relax on a hammock on a weekend vacation at Lake Tahoe.

The Town Crier had an opportunity in July for an informal conversation with California's finance director Tom Campbell and his wife of 27 years, Susanne. A member of Congress 1989-93 and 1995-2001, Campbell has a prolific resume that includes a 20-year stint as a Stanford University law professor and a term as state senator. While a state senator, Tom established his headquarters in Los Altos and became a fixture in the area's local political community.

Last year he took a leave from his position as dean of UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business to become director of California's Department of Finance.

The Republican moderate has said publicly that he will remain finance director until next April when he will return to his position as Haas School dean. As finance director Campbell oversees a staff of more than 400.

How did you learn Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted you as state finance director?

In 2002 you were appointed dean of Haas School. How did it happen that a Stanford man went to Berkeley?

What do you like about your new position in Sacramento?

What is your biggest challenge?

How often do you meet with the governor?

Do you see the governor's image in the polls rising soon?

What role have you had in formulating the budget? Have you changed the governor's mind on any issues?

The governor says this is a fiscally responsible and compassionate budget. Do you agree?

While we ended this year's budget negotiations almost on time, that has not been the case in other years. It hurts our bond rating that the seventh-largest economy in the world often goes months without a budget. This causes us to pay millions more in interest. These structural problems conspire to give us an operating deficit for next year and for every year ahead. Next year's will be over $7 billion.

Some say the governor broke his promise for education funding in the budget. What is your position?

The budget contains an increase of $3 billion for education. From the time it was created last year to the present, the state's finances have improved by over $11 billion. It came from the recovering California economy and from a governor willing to show backbone in Sacramento instead of simply signing every bill the Legislature has passed. If our state can't make ends meet, we are announcing to the world that we have not constrained our spending habit.

What is your relationship with members of the state Legislature?

Do you meet with Secretary of State Bruce McPherson?

How about the Treasurer Phil Angelides?

Do you and Susanne spend much time at your home in San Jose?

Susanne has an important job at Haas, too. How do you make your marriage work?

What do you do for fun?

Currently, Susanne and I are reading "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" to each other when we are home in San Jose.

Susanne and I go out to the movies, but far more often see something at home. I enjoy two kinds of sci-fi: the beautiful with a hopeful message like "The Abyss" and the absolutely shlocky such as "Attack of the Giant Gila Monster."

Thanks for asking! I hope to return to the Haas School, having done my best for the people of California. I have no specific or immediate plans after that.

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