Given Gov. Jerry Brown’s concern for excessive spending on new programs and his instance on maintaining budget reserves, here is a likely way he might begin his State of the State speech today:

“Fortunately we began the year with a sufficient surplus to weather the decline in state revenues…But we cannot easily disregard the lessons of other states where government actions far exceeded the available funds. Toward that end, I will work to maintain a prudent surplus as a hedge against an uncertain economy. 

It is simply not responsible to spend down to the last dollar in hopes the economy will simply grow and grow. That would be to ignore the cyclical nature of our system and do a disservice to those who would come to depend on programs that would have to be cut back in learner periods.

I know some would argue that state government should now dramatically expand and require more from the people to fund the many programs that await enactment. I disagree with that…”

Sounds like Jerry Brown, doesn’t it? It should. The above quotations were taken directly from Brown’s first State of the State speech delivered on January 7, 1976, forty years ago.

“The more things change the more they stay the same,” said French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, undoubtedly with California politics on his mind.

More from Brown’s first State of the State speech that would not be out of place from the governor today:

“We can’t ignore the demands of social and economic justice or the fragile environment on which we all depend. But, in meeting our responsibility, we are now forced to make difficult choices. Freeways, childcare, schools, income assistance, pensions, health programs, prisons, environmental protection – all must compete with one another and be subject to the careful scrutiny of the common purpose we all serve.”

This was the speech in which Brown suggested the philosophy that helped define his first turn as governor: “We are entering an era of limits,” the governor said.

Of course, there were items in the speech that were pegged to the times…although dealt with then have never gone away such as the medical malpractice insurance issue.

Brown also spoke of the concern over poverty—very much an issue before California today—and suggested a solution, asking the legislature “that as each bill comes before you, you evaluate it in terms of its job impact. Until this country provides full employment, we will continue to face mounting instability and a relentless demand for additional government services and income transfers.”

Forty years later, how much different will be today’s speech?

One more thing that has not changed—the question of how long the speech will run. Brown began his speech in 1976 this way: “They say they have a pool on how long the speech will be. I hope I won’t disappoint you.”