Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 – 8:17 am

Former Catholic seminarian Jerry Brown is prone to including obscure theological references in his political pronouncements, often embellishing them with Latin phrases.

So last week, when presenting a new state budget proposal, he used the word “subsidiarity” to describe his intention to continue shifting responsibilities for policymaking from Sacramento to locally elected officials.

One had to be steeped in Catholic doctrinal history to grasp that it evolves from the work of an influential 20th-century German theologian, Oswald von Nell- Breuning.

He postulated that the fundamental autonomy of the individual meant that governments should leave as much decision-making as possible in private hands. It was one of the underpinnings of the Catholic Church’s opposition to fascism, communism and other statist forms.

Applying it, as Brown did, to the relationship between California’s state and local governments is, therefore, a bit of a stretch, albeit another opportunity for Brown to flash his theological erudition to the unwashed media.

Such nitpicking aside, there’s much to be said for diminishing the power that Sacramento assumed, somewhat unintentionally, after voters passed Proposition 13, the landmark property tax limit, 35 years ago, during Brown’s first stint as governor.

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