Jerry Brown is sworn is as governor today, 28 years after he left the office. The world has changed considerably since the young Jerry Brown was governor and undoubtedly Brown has changed as well over that time. Will Brown govern differently or rely on the old playbook from years ago?
Word is that the new governor plans to deal with a massive budget deficit by proposing deep cuts but also offering the voters an opportunity to continue temporary taxes that are set to expire. Cuts and tax increases are suggested as an immediate solution to the state’s deficit problem but the cuts/taxes mix is old school thinking.
Refashioning a 19th century government to 21st century realities is an opportunity the new governor should not pass up. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to restructure state government when he was elected but did not follow through. His best opportunity occurred at the beginning of his administration but he did not press that advantage.
Like most newly elected governors, Governor Brown will have a period of goodwill in which to set his course and that is the time to suggest how to change the way we govern. Dealing with public employee salaries, pension and health costs, which reportedly make up 80-percent of government budgets, re-working the tax system, introducing public-private partnerships, and, in some cases, privatization, can reshape government to deliver services in a less-costly, more efficient way.
If Governor Brown seeks a short-term fix of tax increases (which the voters may not even approve) and spending cuts, the urgency to revise the way California conducts its business will dissipate and another opportunity to remodel and improve California government would be lost.
This is not to say that the governor shouldn’t look at some of the programs that he is said to be considering. It is hard to comment without specifics. However, if the new Brown administration plans to take a hard look at the workings of redevelopment agencies and their worth, that would be a positive step. If the governor wants to target business incentives he should be careful not to pull the legs out from under job creating businesses. Crippling the Golden Goose is no way to free the state from its fiscal woes.
Jerry Brown 2, The Sequel, may be a rehash of an old script or it may contain a new adventure built around the same leading character. New is better.