It is a New Year, and California needs a new game plan. For more than a decade, California has been following the same policies. The budget and economic problems facing California are serious.  We have unemployment that is currently in the double digits and among the worse in the Nation. We have perennial budget problems along with the highest combined tax and regulatory burden in the Country – which is, in large part, the cause of our high unemployment and deficit problems. It is a vicious cycle.

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Well, rather than simply rely on the policies of the past, Governor Jerry Brown has a chance to make a real difference in 2012 – and it won’t be that hard to do.

The term “New Year’s” began around 100 B.C. in Rome, when the Romans sought to forgive enemies and extend an olive branch for the coming year.

In the spirit of this New Year and with the Legislature back in Sacramento, Governor Brown ought to approach the Republican leaders with a proverbial olive branch.  Brown should pick a government program, however small, on which there is consensus on the need for reform or possible savings.  Brown should work relentlessly with his Democrats and the Republicans to reach agreement on reforming that single program.  Once they reach agreement, they should announce the reforms, pass and sign legislation if necessary and hold a joint press conference on their bi-partisan solution.

From there, Brown should keep going – continuing to pick achievable reforms and looking for savings – not waiting until the fall to sign legislation but doing it week by week – building trust and restoring faith in California.  No solutions would be too small.

Otherwise, California will continue down the path of gridlock with Republicans who simply cannot abide by tax increases on the hardworking people of California, and Democrats pushing for more government programs who can find little common ground with their Republican colleagues on the State budget. Often, the two sides don’t even speak to one another about governance or the state budget until May or June. This is no way to govern a state of our size.

This week, Governor Brown will deliver his State of the State address. In every way, he can  and should demonstrate that we can bridge the divide. Then Brown – as the Governor of this State – can demonstrate to the people that this state can, in fact, be governed and that bi-partisanship cooperation is possible. Hope is possible. It would signal a change in California.  That is a worthy New Year’s resolution and would change California for the better.  It is not a question of a way, it is a question of whether he has the will.