Is California Back?

January 25, 2013

Daily Journal

By Bill Silverfarb

Gov. Jerry Brown announced that “California is back” in his State of the State address yesterday morning and local lawmakers serving in Sacramento agree, although they cautioned the state must stay true to Brown’s call of exercising fiscal restraint.

While Republicans also gave Brown’s speech a general thumbs-up, some expressed concern that the supermajority of Democrats in the Legislature will charge ahead with deficit spending.

Brown’s speech centered on K-12 education reform, an upgrade to the state’s water-delivery system and high-speed rail.

The key topic for many lawmakers, however, was education.

“Education was first out of the gate,” Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, said about the governor’s speech. “Many of us feel our first call is to improve our schools.”

High-speed rail, Gordon said, is a conversation that is “quite a ways off.”

Whether high-speed rail ever becomes a reality in the state, Gordon said, will depend on federal funding.

“He continues to hold out a bold vision but the reality is we don’t have the resources to fill the vision,” Gordon told the Daily Journal.

Brown’s speech was a stark contrast to the ones given the past two years, he said.

“In many respects, his speech was hopeful,” Gordon said.

Two years ago, “pundits were writing California’s obituary,” state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, wrote in an email to the Daily Journal.

“Now, thanks to the hard work and generosity of voters who approved Proposition 30, we’re in a position to return our state to its former glory — if we exercise fiscal discipline and don’t repeat our mistakes,” Hill wrote in the email.

Freshman Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, said the speech was “quintessential” Jerry Brown.

“I think he was channeling the hopeful feeling in the Assembly chamber with regard to the prospects of an improving economic climate — yet tempered that enthusiasm with a renewed call for fiscal discipline and wisely building our reserve — all points I agree with,” Mullin wrote the Daily Journal in an email.

He also praised Brown’s call for local control, especially when it comes to educating the state’s students.

“I generally agree with his desire to streamline education funding and empower local school boards, yet the details of his proposal will be analyzed over the spring,” Mullin wrote in the email.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, said the state is now headed in the right direction thanks to the passage of temporary tax measures in November that will put another $6 billion annually into the state’s budget.

“While we should not go on a spending spree, we should begin to restore critical services that were decimated in the past several budgets. I am extremely pleased to see the governor’s commitment to our public universities and his declaration that tuition hikes are off the table,” Yee wrote in a statement.

Many Republicans in Sacramento stopped short of giving Brown credit, however, for the state’s economic rebound.

“California’s future can be bright and full of promise if the government provides the foundation for its prosperity and is not a barrier to its success. Smarter regulations and a government that lives within its means — that is the path to a vibrant and prosperous California and I hope the governor and legislative Democrats follow that course,” state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, wrote in a statement.

Brown’s “good news” budget plan, Gaines wrote, “is a less painful budget than we’ve seen in the past (but) it is only balanced due to the $50 billion tax increase felt by every Californian across the state.”

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