Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
January 21, 2016 6:08 PM

  • Jerry Brown’s State of the State address explores no new ground
  • He appears content to check off items on political bucket list for California
  • But does he see a political role as governorship winds down?

No Latin phrases. No paeans to pioneer ancestors. No quotes from obscure philosophers. A brief reference to climate change. Just a couple of mild quips.

The man who used to give State of the State speeches off the cuff now writes them out and reads them with virtually no textual deviation.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s monotonic address Thursday, just shy of 20 minutes, essentially repeated everything he has been saying lately about everything, without a single new angle on any issue.

A politician who once set himself apart from the herd by proposing bold, even wacky, new things that earned him the much-hated sobriquet of “Governor Moonbeam,” has evolved into a dependable political helmsman.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

During Brown’s second governorship, as he pointedly reminded legislators at the close of the speech, the state’s budget has been balanced, debts have been repaid, unemployment has been halved, and modest relief has been offered to millions of poor Californians.

He’s been a steady hand at the tiller, if not always internally consistent, and an adult in the room with other Capitol’s politicians, nagging them that their actions have consequences, not always good ones.

Brown reminded legislators that the state has seen 10 recessions since World War II and no one knows when the next one will strike, but the state has usually been caught unaware when revenue plummeted. Meanwhile, its budget has become even more volatile because it largely depends on personal income taxes.

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