By Steven Harmon
Bay Area News Group

Posted: 09/02/2012 03:52:44 AM PDT
Updated: 09/02/2012 03:52:50 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — In what was essentially an audition for the fall campaign to raise taxes, Gov. Jerry Brown and Democrats in the Legislature on Friday finished a grueling eight months of painful governing.

The question is: Was it enough to cut through the grating noises of dysfunction emanating from the Capitol this summer?

At Brown’s behest, lawmakers slashed away at welfare-to-work programs, eliminated a popular health program for children, sliced funding for community colleges and universities, and produced pension reform that will ultimately make it less attractive to work for state government.

“What they tried to do was show voters ‘We’ve done our part to cut, and now it’s up to you to help us with the rest,'” said Larry Gerston, a political-science professor at San Jose State University. “If you buy that, it was reasonably executed. It was a reasonably substantive year because there were so many challenges.”

On Friday, the last day of the legislative session, lawmakers pushed through, in strong bipartisan fashion and at Brown’s urging, a bill that makes fixes to the state’s workers’ compensation system that both labor and business cheered.

To be sure, not everything Brown did was aimed at winning voter love in November. He also embarked on controversial projects such as high-speed rail and a new plan to ship water south. Voters have turned on the bullet-train project, the costs of which have skyrocketed since voters approved it in 2006. And, of course, water politics is perpetually treacherous.

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