Asking the assembled legislators to use both discipline and vision in approaching the state’s current budget crisis, California Governor Jerry Brown said that hard choices were in the year ahead for California, whether the choices were made in the legislature or at the polling place.
“It’s not politics as usual. Things are different,” he said in his State of the State Address, noting the public has been more vocal about its unhappiness with the state’s current situation and how the state got there.
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He offered two alternatives: extend taxes or cut programming, cautioning that while redevelopment agencies and projects are worthwhile, something he saw first-hand while he was Mayor of Oakland, the funds derived from local tax sources given to redevelopment leave less to distribute to schools, police and fire and compromise service to California’s “most vulnerable populations.”
Calling this one of the “hard choices,” Brown was quick to add that current redevelopment projects and all bonded indebtedness were safe.
Brown’s speech was less of an outlining of solutions than a call to action, the third-term governor, first reading from the California constitution’s directive that “all power is in the people.”
“If you are a Democrat who doesn’t want to make budget reductions in programs you fought for and deeply believe in, I understand that,” the Governor said. “If you are a Republican who has taken a stand against taxes, I understand where you are coming from. But things are different this time. In fact, the people are telling us--in their own way--that they sense that something is profoundly wrong. They see that their leaders are divided when they should be decisive and acting with clear purpose.”
“When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people,” he told the legislators. “In the ordinary course of things, matters of state concern are properly handled in Sacramento. But when the elected representatives find themselves bogged down by deep differences which divide them, the only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance. It is time for a legislative check-in with the people of California.”
Brown’s biggest challenge will be to get a legislator to propose the budget choices to a special election.
“My plan to rebuild California requires a vote of the people, and frankly I believe it would be irresponsible for us to exclude the people from this process,” he said. “They have a right to vote on this plan. This state belongs to all of us, not just those of us in this chamber. Given the unique nature of the crisis and the serious impact our decisions will have on millions of Californians, the voters deserve to be heard.”
Comments from our local representatives
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth today responded to Governor Jerry Brown’s 2011 State of the State Address, saying that he looked forward to working with the Governor to pass honest solutions to balance the budget, reform Sacramento and get Californians working again.
“Governor Brown has provided us with a blueprint for the state budget,” said Smyth, “and the $8 billion in real cuts are a good starting point. However, instead of relying on voters to approve tax increases that they have rejected twice in the last 18 months, it’s important that Republicans work with his administration and the majority party to help identify additional savings to close the deficit.”
In his State of the State address, Governor Brown made the case for his budget plan for the next 18 months, which contains $14 billion in higher taxes, $8 billion in spending cuts and $6.5 billion in fund shifts and borrowing. Smyth said that the best way to get California’s finances back on track was getting our spending priorities in order, reforming state government and bringing back private-sector jobs – not raising taxes at a time when working families are struggling to make ends meet.
Smyth, who serves as Chair of the Assembly Local Government Committee, also expressed concern about Governor Brown’s proposal to eliminate Enterprise Zone designations, noting that two zones in the Santa Clarita Valley have created a number of jobs and encouraged investment in the local economy.
“Eliminating programs like Enterprise Zones makes little sense, as the Legislature’s top priority should be creating private sector jobs,” said Smyth. “Rather than getting rid of job creation incentives, we should be looking at how to improve the program and demand more accountability to ensure that programs are working the way they were designed.”
Board of Equalization Member George Runner issued the following statement:
"I'm glad Governor Brown is planning to make government more efficient and attempt to put California 's financial house in order.
"But the Governor has it backwards. He thinks balancing the budget will solve our jobs problem. We actually need to solve our jobs problem to solve our budget problem. The Governor's proposed tax hikes will only kill jobs and make our budget problems worse.
"When I served in the Legislature, I warned that the last round of massive tax increases would damage California 's economy. Unfortunately, I was right. Since the February 2009 tax increase, California has lost half a million jobs, unemployment has grown 20%, and we're still in a budget crisis.
"Instead of raising taxes, the Governor should issue an executive order immediately freezing all new taxes, fees and regulations that hurt jobs. That would do more to solve California 's problems than a thousand speeches.
"The Governor can talk about jobs all he wants, but it's the private sector—not the government—that actually creates jobs. And right now California 's job creators have a severe hernia from trying to lift a mountain of new taxes, fees and regulations imposed on them during this economic downturn."
Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Simi Valley) released the following statement on Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address:
“Last year, the state spent $92 billion in general fund dollars. This year, we’re projected to take in about $90 in revenue, and yet the Governor’s budget calls for almost $100 billion in spending. The Democrats in Sacramento just keep coming back for more. They need to maximize the dollars that do come to Sacramento and just deal with it.”
“The Governor and legislative Democrats are throwing around nothing but hyperbole and scare tactics to justify doubling your car tax and raising your sales and income taxes by extending the largest tax increase in California history.”
“There are families across California who wish they could go out to eat more often or buy a new car, but understand during these tough economic times, they have to budget their money and only spend within their means. California government should have to do the same.”