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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff sets out Silicon Valley's Trump wish list

SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff speaking at the Code Enterprise Conference on Nov. 14, 2016.
Asa Mathat | ReCode
SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff speaking at the Code Enterprise Conference on Nov. 14, 2016.

Silicon Valley wants the next administration to make fiscal reforms, changes to the patent and visa systems, and to give U.S. multinationals the chance to repatriate overseas cash hoards at a reduced tax rate, said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Benioff has moderated hundreds of conversations between Silicon Valley executives and President Barack Obama, he said, forecasting that tech's big priorities for President-elect Donald Trump's administration would generally be the same.

Environmental issues, diversity and inclusion were also very important to Silicon Valley, said Benioff, who was speaking on stage at the Code Enterprise conference in San Francisco on Monday night.

A patent troll-killer and a tax holiday

Patent reform was a top priority for tech leaders and was desperately needed to reduce friction in the industry, said Benioff. A patent bill to curtail trolls was killed in the Senate last year, so this remained a top priority, Benioff added. "Patent trolls" acquire patents not to manufacture products but for the express purpose of pursuing compensation for companies that infringe the patent.

Tech executives also wanted a tax holiday — something that did not happen during the Obama administration — that would allow them to repatriate overseas profits at a marginal tax rate, perhaps around 20 percent, he said. This would allow those companies to grow faster and do more, he said.

Visa reforms and fiscal reforms

Reform to the visa system to let students who come to the U.S. to study remain in the country after completing a college degree was also needed, he said. One of the country's greatest assets is its school system, said Benioff.

"We attract people from all over the world — the best in the world — and right now when they graduate our universities, they're forced out of the country," said Benioff.

Lastly, on the government side, Silicon Valley executives — many of whom supported Simpson-Bowles — would like to see a reduction of the national debt through fiscal reforms, he said.

Inclusion, diversity and the environment

When it comes to social issues, the environment and diversity were at the top of the list for Silicon Valley leaders, he said.

World leaders made incredible progress on environmental issues over the summer — with deals such as the Paris climate agreement — and protecting the environment was something tech leaders cared deeply about, said Benioff.

"A lot of people have got involved in that, and that's very important to a lot of world leaders, and a lot of economic leaders, because they have been educated and they can see that we need to shift," he said. "And, Silicon Valley is very, very sensitive and focused on inclusion and diversity."

Benioff said he was hopeful that Trump's presidency would be less extreme than his campaign rhetoric, and that an adjustment already seemed to be taking place.