In his budget unveiling Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown was very much like the doctor I hope will sit with me at my bedside when the illness is terminal: gentle, funny and honest about the fact that I only have a short-time left.

Here’s the problem: Brown’s demeanor, not to mention his budget proposal, didn’t fit California – a young place with a long future ahead of it.

He talked convincingly about all the pain ahead of us – the cuts to every program, the tax increases needed to prevent things from being worse. And he then stopped right there – and never convincingly connected the budget cuts of today to a better future.

Jerry, California stands ready to take the pain. But how will the pain get us to a better place eventually?

Brown was asked various versions of this question in a host of different ways. But he never really answered it. Brown’s silence, and evasions, seemed to suggest he doesn’t think a solution to the state’s budget crisis is politically possible. He certainly didn’t offer one. His big reform – a realignment of a limited number of services between local and state government – was half-baked and temporary; it provides responsibility to local governments for some programs, without giving them the power to raise the revenues to pay for those programs. And the money the state provides for that realignment – even in the event Brown manages to get voters to approve that money – expires in five years.

The result is a budget that is the spitting image of the weakest proposals that Gov. Schwarzenegger made in his last years in office. Except Brown is surrendering in his second week in office, when he still has political capital from his landslide election.

He suggests the public is ready to embrace budget pain but isn’t ready for the solutions to that pain. Yes, the pain is inevitable, but why should Californians go along with spending cuts and tax increases like this unless they are linked to a broader systemic reform that promises a better future?