By Greg Lucas | 09/28/11 12:00 AM PST

As a candidate for governor, Jerry Brown sold himself as a can-do, been-there-done-that political veteran – eight years in the Capitol’s corner office already under his belt – who could “knock some heads” and get the J-O-B done.

Any number of times, Brown said he knew how Sacramento worked and how it should work.

“I have the preparation, know-how – and the independence – to challenge the status quo and get our legislators to work together as Californians first, not just members of the Democratic or Republican parties,” he said in his primary election victory speech last year.

But while the 73-year-old former seminarian routinely mentioned California’s “dreamers, doers and pioneers” on the campaign trail and “green jobs,” he didn’t articulate a vision for the Golden State much beyond stressing the importance of ordering its fiscal chaos.

That’s a common rap on the Democratic governor by California Republican Party Chair Tom del Beccaro: “Jerry Brown is a manager. We don’t need a manager. We need a leader. With a vision.”

Brown says he has kept true to his campaign pledges.

“The governor said he would be honest and speak the truth. He said he would deal with the budget without smoke and mirrors, not raise taxes without voter approval and move government closer to the people. He’s done what he said he would,” Gil Duran, Brown’s communications director, told Capitol Weekly.

Is that vision, though?

“Brown has helped himself by lowering expectations. He never pretended he was going to lead some miraculous turnaround. He never pretended he had magic answers to the state’s problems,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh School of Politics at the University of Southern California.

“Basically, Brown said, ‘I know how to slog through and gradually get things heading in the right direction.’ “

Brown has had his share of tough slogging over the past nine months.

Most recently, during the final hours of the legislative session, Senate Republican balked at the governor’s tax incentive plan for small businesses.

On the budget itself, Republicans refused to grant him the votes to place before voters his initial proposal to extend for five years $11 billion in temporary taxes.

The budget the Democratic governor eventually signed was more reminiscent of what his GOP opponent Meg Whitman would have proposed.

It was balanced mainly through spending scale-backs including a $1.4 billion whack on higher education and $4 billion for health and human services programs.

“He came in with one goal and failed to get there. He needed four Republican votes and got zero. He hasn’t succeeded in pushing Democrats to the middle either,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego.

“An all cuts budget was not what he campaigned on which makes him, at least at the moment, the governor of a state that’s not moving in a direction he wants.”

It is a budget long on long-term savings that’s shorter on sleight-of-hand and one-time quick fixes than most in recent memory.

A budget that leaves state support for public schools largely untouched after three years of reductions totaling more than $14 billion.

A budget that shifts more than $5.5 billion in criminal justice and public safety functions to counties.
And a budget signed before the beginning of the new fiscal year, only the sixth time in 20 years.

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