Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 – 12:00 am

The close of the Legislature’s 2012-14 biennial session also marks the end of a noteworthy period – Jerry Brown’s third term as governor and the reigns of the Legislature’s two top leaders.

During his swan song speech to the Senate on Thursday, outgoing President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg called it a “six-year run where California went from the depths of budget hell and dysfunction to fiscal stability and serial achievement.”

Whether that is an accurate assessment of the past half-decade or so depends largely on one’s ideological orientation or sense of what state government should be doing for its 38 million constituents.

Certainly much has been enacted in recent years, from wholehearted embrace of Obamacare to a significant overhaul of education finance and, most recently, a bond issue aimed at making California’s water supply more reliable.

With Democrat Brown’s election to a third term after a 28-year interval and Democratic gains in the Legislature, the party’s major constituent groups – especially labor unions and environmental groups – pressed their agendas and scored some noteworthy wins.

They and Brown joined forces to persuade voters to raise taxes – mostly on the wealthy. And coupled with a slow recovery from recession, the tax hike raised state revenue by many billions of dollars, allowing Brown and legislators to balance the state budget after years of deficits and begin paying down immense accumulated debts.

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