Jerry Brown

By Juliet Williams, The Associated Press
Posted: 10/11/14, 12:20 PM PDT | Updated: 1 min ago

SACRAMENTO >> Mandarin Restraint and steady progress don’t necessarily make for catchy political slogans. But a sure-handed approach to managing California’s fiscal recovery is Gov. Jerry Brown’s central pitch to voters as he seeks re-election to an unprecedented fourth term as governor.

The Democratic governor is promoting the state’s improved fiscal health since he retook the office in 2011, as well as promoting his restructuring of California’s education finance system and a November ballot measure seeking to spend $7.5 billion to improve the state’s water supplies.

He also has been criticized for being too cozy with union interests, pushing a contentious water-tunnel plan and pressing ahead with a $68 billion high-speed rail project.

During a September debate with his Republican rival, former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, the 76-year-old governor touted the experience he has accumulated after a lifetime in government and politics.

“Things don’t get done with a press release or a glib statement,” he said. “They take many, many years.”

Brown was referring to the state’s continued massive shortfall in its public pension obligations, but it also sums up his approach to governing.

Since returning to Sacramento after first serving as governor from 1975 to 1983, Brown has made good on campaign promises to overhaul education financing, eliminate a $26 billion budget deficit and make changes to the public employee retirement system. He also overhauled the criminal justice system to send lower-level offenders to county jails rather than state prisons in response to federal court orders.

Brown has retreated on tackling other problems, such as overhauling the burdensome California Environmental Quality Act. California also still has a top-heavy tax structure that relies on high-income earners, a system that swells coffers during boom times but also helped create the massive budget deficit Brown inherited.

Environmentalists oppose his $25 billion plan to build two massive twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, his high-speed rail project has been tied up in litigation, and California-based Tesla just announced it would build its $5 billion battery factory in Nevada instead of California, despite the Brown administration’s lobbying.

The budgets Brown has signed since taking office have been a signal that California regained its financial footing after the recession, said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. But he added: “The big issues that gave rise to government deficits have not gone away. … So that problem has not been solved in Sacramento.”

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