Cheers and Jeers for the Governor’s State of the State Address

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

In Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State speech he told Californians, “In this time of uncertainty, prudence and paying down debt is the best policy.”

Yet, while he followed the form on prudence when it came to the hot topic of pensions, he went off the rails, so to speak, when he came to endorsing high-speed rail.

The governor implored the legislature to take up pension reform and “do something real.” He did the math for the legislators to make his case. “Three times as many people are retiring as are entering the workforce. That arithmetic doesn’t add up. In addition, benefits, contributions and the age of retirement all have to balance. I don’t believe they do today.”

But, when he defended his push for the high-speed rail system he evoked projects that exist today but were derided when they were proposed either because of cost concerns like the Bay Area Rapid Transit System or engineering questions such as building the Suez Canal.

Unlike the pension argument, the governor did not deal with the numbers surrounding the high-speed rail project, probably because the numbers involving the bullet train have been found suspect. Rider projections were overblown and cost projections were underestimated. The question about the bullet train is not: Can it be done? The question is: At what cost?

Or to refer to the governor’s own test: Is spending billions of dollars on the rail project at this time prudent?

The contradiction in the approaches to the pension and rail arguments reflects a mix response I have to the governor’s speech. There were policies he advanced that prompted cheers and others that brought jeers.

Hurray to the governor for emphasizing the need to champion business in the state by encouraging large and small business development through the GO-BIZ office. However, instead of helping business “navigate the state’s plethora of complex laws and regulations” through this office, how about eliminating some of the complex laws and regulations so business can prosper?

Cheers for improving education by pushing for replacement of categorical programs in the schools, something that has been advocated for a long time, and give more responsibility to local school districts.

Jeers for the governor’s tax increase initiative to balance the budget. He acknowledged that, “California is on the mend.” He said personal income grew nearly $100 billion in 2011. Revenue to the state is up by $8.4 billion according to Republican legislative leaders. If that is so, does California really need a tax increase? Will the tax increase reverse the trend of a healing economy?

The California Dream the governor proudly pronounced was alive and well was secured in a state when dreams were allowed to grow unfettered by too many regulations and heavy taxes.

If the governor wants to bring California back to that shining place, he should follow the formula that made us the Golden State in the first place.

 

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