Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
September 8, 2015

  • Brown elevates issues, often settles for halfway measures
  • State budget balanced now, but long-term stability uncertain
  • Governor’s transportation plan falls short of need

Jerry Brown’s political modus operandi has become well established in the second half of his two-part governorship.

He declares something to be vitally important, then often settles for a half-a-loaf “solution” or an initial gesture that allows him to check it off his political bucket list.

And if the issue seems to require too much heavy political lifting, he quietly ignores it. For instance, Brown declared reform of the cumbersome California Environmental Quality Act to be “the Lord’s work,” but has done virtually nothing.

The list of Brown’s partial accomplishments has a number of items, including public pension reform, but the most important is the state budget.

He took some praiseworthy steps, such as paying down the “wall of debt” that had been erected during years of deficit spending.

Brown also held the expansionist ambitions of fellow Democrats somewhat in check, although general fund spending is up more than one-third over the last four years. And he persuaded voters to temporarily raise taxes, mostly on very high-income taxpayers.

Although the current budget is balanced, its longer-term stability is very much in doubt, and not just because the temporary taxes are due to expire.

While voters passed Brown’s rainy-day fund measure that would gradually build up some reserves, they would provide only brief respite from a severe downturn.

Brown, meanwhile, won’t even attempt to do what must be done to truly stabilize the budget – lower its dependence on taxing unpredictable investment profits of the wealthy.

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