By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan 22 California Governor
Jerry Brown took credit for his state's fiscal rebound in a
state of the state address on Wednesday that also urged
continued restraint to lawmakers seeking to rebuild a social
safety net tattered by years of tight budgets and economic
In a speech that could preview the tone of an expected bid
for re-election this year, Brown said that California had added
1 million jobs since 2010 and extricated itself from "a
financial sinkhole that defied every effort to climb out of it.
"To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must spend with
great prudence, and we must also establish a solid rainy day
fund, locked into the constitution," said Brown, a Democrat now
in a second stint as governor after serving two terms from 1975
Brown, 75, has toed a largely centrist path during this
go-round at the state's top job, vetoing several bills,
including some gun control measures favored by progressives in
his own party - despite Democratic control of both houses of the
legislature and the governorship. Brown's speech showed no sign
of a change in that course.
The onetime seminarian, who is widely expected to seek
re-election, touted changes to the way the most populous U.S.
state funds education, channeling more money to districts with
disadvantaged students and allowing more local control over how
the dollars are spent.
He also called on regulators to loosen some water
distribution rules to help California farmers and cities deal
with a nagging drought, which he declared as an emergency last
Brown blamed the drought in part on climate change, and
predicted increases in the wildfires that plague the state,
along with a continued decrease in the Sierra snowpack that
provides water to its streams and reservoirs.
"We do not know how much our current problem derives from
the build-up of heat-trapping gasses, but we can take this
drought as a stark warning of things to come," Brown said.
In the speech, Brown barely mentioned one of his key
projects, a proposed high-speed rail line to connect Los Angeles
with San Francisco. He also shied away from any mention of
fracking, the oil and natural gas drilling procedure in which
water and chemicals are injected into rock formations.
Outside, environmental activists protested the governor's
support of some fracking in the state, some carrying signs
saying, "No fracking way."
Brown did, however, encourage conservation and the
development of new technologies to wean the state off of fossil
fuel, prompting applause from the largely Democratic lawmakers
and their guests.
Earlier this month, Brown took a stern line on fiscal
restraint when he released his $107 billion budget plan,
potentially inviting a fight with some progressive state
lawmakers of his Democratic Party who want to restore spending
on social programs cut during the long economic downturn.
Key issues facing the state as it emerges from the economic
slump include the cost of higher education, the quality of
California's once-vaunted public K-12 schools and an ongoing
struggle over conditions in its massive prison system.
State Republican leaders said they welcomed Brown's vision
of fiscal restraint, but differed on how to implement it.
Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway called for paying
down more debt with the projected multibillion-dollar surplus,
rather than boosting spending on social programs or high-speed
State Senator Bob Huff, who leads the Republican caucus in
that body, urged support for a plan to temporarily ease
restrictions in the federal Endangered Species Act on removing
water from the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The
plan would allow more water to flow to drought-parched farms and
"Sometimes we have to realize that human beings are animals,
too," Huff said.