SACRAMENTO — Seeking to reclaim the state's identity as an innovator and engine of growth, Gov. Jerry Brown declared in a sweeping State of the State address that "California did the impossible" in emerging from financial crisis poised to lead again.There's video at that top link, and at C-SPAN, "Gov. Brown (D-CA) Delivers State of the State."
Brown outlined a vision for the state Thursday in remarks that were equal parts history lesson, lecture and rhetorical flourish. It includes major investment in water and rail systems, more robust trade and an education structure free of regulations that crush creativity.
Invoking California's "spectacular history of bold pioneers meeting every failure with even greater success," he asked a joint session of the Legislature to overhaul the way schools are funded, build a controversial bullet train and aggressively expand healthcare to millions of needy residents.
Californians "have a rendezvous with our own destiny," he said, in an allusion to Franklin Roosevelt's famous Depression-era speech.
At the same time, he sounded the familiar theme that the state should not try to live beyond its means. Drawing on the Book of Genesis, he recounted Pharaoh's dreams of well-fed cows eaten by starving cows — a warning that famine can follow plenty.
"Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our good intentions but the basis for realizing them," he told an Assembly chamber packed with legislators, state Supreme Court justices and other dignitaries who applauded throughout the 24-minute speech.
Brown plans to take his message to Washington, D.C., next month, when he will attend a meeting of the National Governors Assn., and to China in April, when he leads a state delegation to christen California's new trade office there.
The governor is at a high point in his long political career, presiding over a Capitol now entirely controlled by his Democratic Party and having convinced voters that higher taxes would restore the state's financial footing.
He will have more influence over lawmakers than any governor has had in years. He solved for them their most immediate problem: an out-of-whack budget that has constrained their ambitions and forced them to cut deeply into programs their constituents value.
But despite Brown's proclamations that California no longer has a deficit, the state faces long-term financial problems that could stymie his agenda.
I think the governor's getting a little cocky, but we'll see. Maybe California's turning a corner. How much things might improve remains to be seen. But no doubt any improvement will be welcomed.
(I'm especially interested to see what happens in public education, however. Lord knows that sector has infinite room for improvement.)