“Amen to that, brother,” Governor Jerry Brown exhorted in his state of the state speech in support of President Donald Trump’s call for spending $1 trillion on infrastructure improvements. It was the only sense of cooperation the governor offered to the new president and some of his expected policies.
While Brown set down markers saying California will oppose efforts by Trump to alter California immigration, health care and climate policies, he was more magnanimous when it came to infrastructure saying, “We have roads and tunnels and railroads and even a dam that the President could help us with.”
Brown attempted to extend the idea of working with Washington on infrastructure to bipartisan cooperation in Sacramento. “Democrats are in the majority, but Republicans represent real Californians too,” he said. “We went beyond party when we reformed workers’ compensation, when we created a rainy day fund and when we passed the water bond.”
Sustained applause for his statement got an acknowledgement from the governor.
However, Brown’s plan to secure support for his infrastructure plan of raising taxes and fees didn’t meet with immediate hugs from Republicans.
Board of Equalization member George Runner: “Governor Brown’s vision for our state includes even higher gas prices and taxes that hurt working-class people. There’s enough money to fix our roads without raising taxes, our leaders just need to make the right priorities.”
Republican Assembly Leader Chad Mayes: “Assembly Republicans have a vision of California that works for the people and we don’t need higher taxes or deficit spending to get there.”
Assemblyman Randy Voepel: “Last year, Republicans have put forth a transportation plan that would provide critical upgrades, repairs, and new infrastructure in our transportation system throughout the state – without raising taxes. Not only was this proposal ignored, but no substantive action was taken last year to address our worsening transportation crisis.”
Infrastructure concerns cut across many interests. Republicans and Democrats agree something must be done. Business and Labor agree something must be done. But the details trip up compromises. Taxes? Reducing costs with more economical labor policies and fewer regulations?
Is there middle ground in a state so dominated by Democrats?
A Democratic supermajority and a governor interested in legacy will be tested to see if working with the minority Republicans can work or was merely rhetoric for public consumption.
Brown argued for bipartisanship acknowledging the need to include Republicans on solutions to the state’s major issues. How far will he go to press fellow Democrats to accept some Republican ideas in crafting solutions to California’s problems? Such an effort on his part would measure how seriously he wants to gain bipartisan solutions.