Jerry Brown

State of the State address

John Myers
January 21, 2016

In a short speech with a long view of California, Gov. Jerry Brown used his State of the State address to challenge lawmakers to better balance the cyclical nature of success and setback that has dominated state government for the better part of two decades.

“The challenge is to solve today’s problems without making those of tomorrow even worse,” the governor said in his annual speech delivered from the Assembly chamber Thursday.

Brown, interrupted by occasional applause from legislators, touched on themes that included California’s drought and the challenges of income inequality and terrorism.

But he purposely stopped short of proposing new state government projects, leaving the impression he was more interested in raising awareness than sparking action.

“You are not going to hear me talk today about new programs,” the governor said. “Rather, I am going to focus on how we pay for the commitments we have already made.”

That focus included not only long-term items like pensions for public employees, but also the more recent expansion of healthcare for low-income families through the Medi-Cal program and for others through the Covered California healthcare exchange.

Brown boasted that the state had “wholeheartedly embraced” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “This is an historic achievement,” he said to applause from Democrats in the Assembly and Senate.

The speech came two weeks after Brown sent a $170.7-billion budget to the Legislature for the fiscal year that begins in July.

That spending plan acknowledges another year of better-than-forecast tax revenue — of $5.9 billion more than lawmakers had assumed last summer. The governor has asked legislators to put an extra payment of $2 billion into reserves or debt repayment rather than commit it to new programs or an expansion of existing ones.

“If we are to minimize the zigzag of spend-cut-spend that this tax system inevitably produces,” Brown said, “we must build a very large reserve.”

Whether the governor can convince more liberal Democrats in the Legislature of that path forward remains unclear.

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