In a meditation on his father’s time as governor— as well as his own three previous terms — Governor Jerry Brown took a long look back during his state of the state address on Monday while also expressing an optimistic approach towards the future.
“So you see, these problems, they never completely go away. They remain to challenge and elicit the best from us,” he said.
Amongst “these problems” is the education system which, although fraught with underfunding for years, appears to be on the up and up as next year schools will receive $65.7 billion, a 39 percent increase in four years. While Brown noted that implementing Common Core has proven challenging for teachers, he recognized the importance of continuing to support educators as well as creating an affordable system for students.
Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R –Modesto) agreed that education needs to remain a priority and vocalized support for the governor’s vision, noting the link between education and economic health in the state.
“In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to working with Governor Brown and my legislative colleagues to improve California’s financial standing, invest in education, keep tuition flat, and develop policies that lead to long-term economic vitality and opportunity in all regions of the state,” she said.
“I am also encouraged and support the Governor’s statement that students should not be the financiers of California’s higher education system,” said Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres).
Other than education, Brown remarked on the evolution in the criminal system over the years and the changes that will come with the passage of Propositions 36 and 47 which “reduce the scope of the Three Strikes Law” and changes some felonies to misdemeanors.
“All these changes attempt to find less expensive, more compassionate and more effective ways to deal with crime. This is work that is as profoundly important as it is difficult, yet we must never cease in our efforts to assure liberty and justice for all,” said Brown.
He also emphasized the importance of good roads to support citizens and commerce – something with which Turlockers are familiar with the near passage of a half-cent road tax in November. However, just like for locals, financing this need at the state level has proven problematic.
“It is estimated that our state has accumulated $59 billion in needed upkeep and maintenance. Each year, we fall further and further behind and we must do something about it,” said Brown. “So I am calling on Republicans and Democrats alike to come together and tackle this challenge. We came together on water when many said it was impossible. We came together — unanimously — to create a solid Rainy Day Fund. We can do it again.”
Brown listed building the nation’s only high-speed rail system as one of many accomplishments of which California should be proud, as well as raising the minimum wage, confronting the ongoing drought and issuing immigrants driver’s licenses.
While Olsen stated that “Assembly Republicans stand ready to partner with Governor Brown on policies that will put California on a responsible financial path that respects hard-working taxpayers,” she also vocalized dissatisfaction with the governor.
“I am disappointed that in his fifth year, Governor Brown is still off chasing tunnels and trains instead of putting forward a plan to spur economic growth in California or to ensure our schools are preparing students for a 21stcentury economy. Our state’s top priority should be making it easier for Californians to find good jobs or start a business of their own, and for parents to access high-performing schools in any and all communities that will set their kids up for success in school, in the workplace, and in life," said Olsen.
Perhaps Senator Tom Berryhill’s statement most succinctly expresses the local legislators’ concerns for fiscal prudence over the next year:
“As always, the Governor has put forth some bold visions in his speech. A word of caution — those visions should not be achieved on the backs of the working folks.”