Shortly after making his State of the State speech in Sacramento on Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown traveled to Southern California for a two-day trip to gain support for his proposed tax increases. On Thursday, he elaborated on his State of the State speech at a San Diego luncheon co-sponsored by the Independent Voter Project (IVP), the City Club of San Diego, and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
As with his annual speech at the Capitol, the Governor reiterated the need for California to move forward with initiatives that will help the state to “keep inventing the future.” Those initiatives include:
Education reforms that simplify the rules and focus more on the local level. “Our rules create a lot of administration instead of a lot of teaching,” he said. Completing the Delta Plan to ensure water for the future that also protects the environment. “When I was governor the first time we were worried about water for the farmers. Now we have to worry about fish, and they have some of the best lobbyists in Sacramento. Moving high speed rail forward and why the project will start in the Central Valley. “I believe there will be 10 to 20 million more Californians living in our state in the future. They aren’t going to the coast. They are going to the valley.” Changing pension plans to make the math work. “There are three times as many people retiring as coming into the work force and five times as many as being born.” Encouraging alternative energy development. “Our goal is 20,000 megawatts of new alternative energy by 2020. California has permitted over 16,000 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal energy projects. I believe we will exceed our goal.”
As in his State of the State speech, Brown addressed the need to decrease a $9 billion deficit by increasing both state sales tax and income tax on California's wealthiest. He said that not long ago the state had a car tax of two percent that was reduced to a half percent, creating a $7 billion gap that the state is trying to make up. The tax initiatives he has proposed are temporary measures according to the Governor. “We project that the economy will grow out of the deficit and we won’t have to reauthorize the proposed tax increases,” he said.
Brown encouraged the audience to look forward instead of into the rear view mirror. He criticized what he called “dystopian journalists” as those who imagine a negative future that doesn’t exist.“Even as we tighten our belts, we need to think about what we can do to make things better,” he said.
Brown took questions at the end of his talk in San Diego, and he was asked to address allegations that he is using proposed cuts to education to push for his tax increases. Brown said that wasn’t true, pointing out billion dollar cuts that have been made in other parts of the budget. “Education is the largest portion of the state’s budget it so it can’t be ignored. It’s not a threat; it is a statement of the way the budget works,” he said.
As to critics of his big initiatives, Brown cited historical examples of important projects completed in the past that were originally thought to be infeasible, including the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, the Master Plan for the Interstate Highway System and the Bay Area Transit System (BART). “The critics were wrong then and they’re wrong now,” Brown said. “Anytime you think big, you are going to run into critics.”
The overall tone of Brown’s talk was upbeat and forward looking. “California keeps inventing the future,’ he said. “The gold is here, but it’s not in the Sierras. It’s in our minds. We have to mine that gold. California is the state of innovation, the state of the future. We are the future, and we are getting it done.”
In related news, the Think Long Committee For California, chaired by Nicolas Berggruen, recently announced it would abandon its proposed tax initiative until 2014. Comprised of big names such as Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, the Think Long Committee aimed to move past partisan gridlock to provide solutions for the California budget deficit. The Think Long Committee's decision to delay the $10 billion tax plan leaves open the possibility of backing Brown's proposed tax initiative. On the potential partnership, Governor Brown says, "Think Long is doing very important work, and I look forward to working with them on the critical issue of more permanent tax reform.”
For the full text of the State of the State address, visit the official California Governor website.