In a speech that could preview the tone of an expected bid for
re-election this year, Brown said that California had added 1
million jobs since 2010 and extricated itself from "a financial
sinkhole that defied every effort to climb out of it.
"To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must spend with great
prudence, and we must also establish a solid rainy day fund, locked
into the constitution," said Brown, a Democrat now in a second stint
as governor after serving two terms from 1975 to 1983.
Brown, 75, has toed a largely centrist path during this go-round at
the state's top job, vetoing several bills, including some gun
control measures favored by progressives in his own party — despite
Democratic control of both houses of the legislature and the
governorship. Brown's speech showed no sign of a change in that
The onetime seminarian, who is widely expected to seek re-election
this year but has not yet formally announced his plans, touted
changes to the way the most populous U.S. state funds education,
channeling more money to districts with disadvantaged students and
allowing more local control over how the dollars are spent.
"Life is local," Brown said. "So many of the things we try to do
here in the state capitol can only be handled by local
representatives and leaders."
Continuing on a theme of decentralization, Brown also praised a
controversial program aimed at reducing the population of inmates in
state prisons by shifting responsibility for some lower level
offenders to county governments.
"That was all but a campaign speech," said political scientist Larry
Gerston, a professor at San Jose State University. "The only words
missing from that were, 'I'm here to announce I'm running for
In the speech, Brown barely mentioned one of his key projects, a
proposed high-speed rail line to connect Los Angeles with San
The $68 billion project, approved by voters in 2008, has drawn
criticism for its high price tag at a time when the state is still
recovering from the economic downturn. The proposed 800-mile rail
line also ran into legal trouble, when a judge ordered the state to
rescind its funding plan, effectively putting on hold the sale of $8
billion in bonds.
But Gerston cautioned that such a brief mention — just one phrase — does not mean that Brown is giving up on the project.
"Jerry Brown is in the best sense of the word hard-headed, and he's
going to push hard on high-speed rail until every political breath
is taken," Gerston said. "He's not going to back off on this."
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Brown also shied away from any mention of fracking, the oil and
natural gas drilling procedure that he has expressed support for in
the past. Outside, environmental activists who fear pollution from
the procedure, in which water and chemicals are injected into rock
formations, protested. Some carried signs saying, "No fracking way."
Brown did encourage conservation and the development of new
technologies to wean the state off of fossil fuel, prompting
applause from the largely Democratic lawmakers and their guests.
He also called on regulators to loosen some water distribution rules
to help California farmers and cities deal with a nagging drought,
which he declared as an emergency last week.
Earlier this month, Brown took a stern line on fiscal restraint when
he released a $107 billion budget plan sure to rankle some
progressive state lawmakers of his Democratic Party who want to
restore spending on social programs cut during the long economic
State Republican leaders said they welcomed Brown's vision of fiscal
restraint, but differed on how to implement it.
Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway called for paying down more
debt with the projected multibillion-dollar surplus, rather than
boosting spending on social programs or high-speed rail.
State Senator Bob Huff, who leads the Republican caucus in that
body, urged support for a plan to temporarily ease restrictions in
the federal Endangered Species Act on removing water from the
fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. That would allow more
water to flow to drought-parched farms and cities.
"Sometimes we have to realize that human beings are animals, too,"
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Cynthia Johnston, David
Gregorio and Nick Zieminski)
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