By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 – 9:59 am

“My father built the water plan. I want to complete it. So, whether it’s high-speed rail or water or education or public safety, I’m going to invest and build for the future, not steal from it.” GOV. JERRY BROWN, son of former Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown

Before leaving Southern California last week, after urging greater infrastructure spending in a “land of dreams,” Gov. Jerry Brown recalled how long he has made that case and how wary of his ideas people can be.

“I actually wanted to have a state satellite,” Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, told the City Club of San Diego on Thursday. “Couldn’t pull it off.”

Governor again three decades later, Brown is promoting high-speed rail and a multibillion-dollar water project, versions of which he advocated, ultimately unsuccessfully, when he was governor before. He’s also campaigning to raise taxes. In a series of appearances in Southern California following his State of the State address, he made repeated references to his father, the late Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, a legendary builder of state infrastructure.

“My father built the water plan,” Brown said. “I want to complete it. So, whether it’s high-speed rail or water or education or public safety, I’m going to invest and build for the future, not steal from it.”

In Burbank, a reporter said to the Democratic governor, “But the issue is, ‘How do you balance cuts vs. raising revenue.’ ”

“No, see that’s the small-minded mentality,” Brown responded. “We want to build. We want to build high-speed rail, we want to build water, we want to build roads, we want California to stay on the move.”

Brown is expected by summer to propose a peripheral canal or another way to move water through or around the Delta, a project he said will cost water users “well over $10 billion.” He persuaded the Legislature when he was governor before to approve such a canal, but it was defeated in a referendum in 1982.

Three years earlier, in his State of the State address, Brown had called the project “an investment in the future,” a refrain he repeated this week, more than 30 years later.

“It takes a long time to get things done, and that’s why I’m still governor, because I didn’t finish everything,” said Brown, 73. “In fact, my father didn’t finish everything. So, we stick to it. You know, we’re not a flash in the pan.”

The public’s appetite for public works spending is uncertain. Californians authorized the state’s high-speed rail plan in 2008, but they now oppose it by a wide margin, according to the most recent Field Poll. The electorate has a dim view of the Legislature, and Brown’s own public approval rating – though higher than many other politicians’ – is nowhere near as high as he posted when he was governor before.

“The voters are very cynical, and rightly so,” said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which handicaps legislative elections.

Hoffenblum, who was working for the Los Angeles County Republican Party in the late 1960s, when Brown was elected to the Los Angeles Community College board, said Brown has “always been a grandiose thinker.”

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