The Morning Report
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For a guy worried about wasting time on speeches, Gov. Jerry Brown sure made a lot of public appearances this week.
First, on Monday, he gave a joint State of the State/inaugural address before the Legislature during a swearing-in ceremony for his record fourth term as governor. Later that day, he swore in new California Supreme Court justices Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Leondra R. Kruger as well as new California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
Then, on Tuesday, the governor spoke in Fresno at the groundbreaking of the California High-Speed Rail, which began construction after years of delays. Finally, on Friday, Brown unveiled his initial plans for the 2015-16 state budget.
Here are some takeaways from the governor’s busy week.
Jerry is proud of his accomplishments. The governor’s State of the State address opened with a long list of things he’s done in the last four years in office: balanced the state budget, overseen a drop in the unemployment rate, got voters to support Propositions 1 and 2. As the Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton observed, the governor sounded like a candidate. With a tone like that, expect talk to continue that Brown is eyeing a run for president in 2016.
Jerry is keenly aware of his place in history. The governor made a point of referencing his father Pat Brown’s first inauguration as governor in 1959. Pat Brown, of course, is viewed as one of the state’s greatest governors and its widely believed that Jerry has been trying to live up to his father’s accomplishments. Indeed, Jerry has found his place in the record books, with his unprecedented fourth term.
Jerry’s priorities for the new term are about what you’d expect. Education — long a a focus — will remain so. Health care, specifically the Affordable Care Act, will too. Ditto for criminal justice, which by virtue of the state’s prison overcrowding crisis has been an issue the governor can’t escape. Brown addressed all of these, at least in passing, in his speech. But sticking his his theme of austerity, he also was quick to mention long-term pension liabilities.
Jerry is interested in fixing roads. The governor said he will be calling Republicans and Democrats together to address the $59 billion in needed maintenance for state highways, roads and bridges. The parties came together to get a water bond and a rainy day fund passed. They can do it again, he said.
Jerry wants to do more to clean up the environment. The governor proposed three lofty environmental goals for the next 15 years: Increase the amount of electricity in the state that’s generated from renewable resources; reduce the use of petroleum in vehicles by half; and double the efficiency of existing building while making fuels for heating those buildings cleaner.
Some Inaugural Links
• Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is sworn in by his political rival, Attorney General Kamala Harris. (Sacramento Bee)
Takeaways From Brown’s Budget Proposal
For a nice little bookend, Brown also made a splash at the end of the week by unveiling his state budget proposal. Brown said he couldn’t play Santa Claus. Instead, he repeatedly emphasized fiscal responsibility in his Friday speech.
“It’s not a time for exuberant overkill in our budget spending,” Brown said, dubbing this year’s budget-balancing act “more precarious than I’d like.”
That meant a budget that, as the Sacramento Bee notes, restores few of social services cut during the recession.
Mostly, Brown proposed sinking the state’s surplus into its rainy day fund and debts.
Here are some other takeaways from Brown’s speech and his budget.
• Brown’s $164.7 billion budget gives schools an additional $2.5 billion but doesn’t include the extra $100 million that university leaders have said they need to avoid tuition hikes. That’ll translate into a higher-education funding showdown this year. (AP)
• The state court system, which was hit with audit this week that revealed $30 million in questionable spending, got a $180 million funding hike to help it repair the damage associated with past cuts. (Mercury News)
• Growing health care costs were Brown’s prime nemesis as he aimed to balance the budget. (L.A. Times) Brown said Friday he plans to try to partly chip away at them later this year through labor negotiations with state workers. (Sacramento Bee)
• Brown’s budget didn’t include Medi-Cal funding for undocumented immigrants or cash for major state road and infrastructure fixes, though he made the latter a goal in his inauguration speech. (L.A. Times)
• Brown said Friday he remains interested in reforming the California Environmental Quality Act, a contentious state law that requires cities and developers to expose potential environmental impacts of their projects.
“There’s always room for CEQA reform and we’re going to be looking at some of that,” Brown said.
Check out our recent coverage for details on why many businesses have a beef with CEQA and why it hasn’t been overhauled yet.
What’s Happening With the Legislature?
• A Q-and-A with Republican San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein. (U-T)
• A roundup of key issues facing the Legislature, which returned to work on Monday. (Sacramento Bee)
• Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell is pushing the governor to increase spending on social services. (Sacramento Bee)
• A new bill would require children under the age of 2 to sit in rear-facing car seats. (S.F. Chronicle)
More State News
• The sights and sounds of the High-Speed Rail groundbreaking. (Fresno Bee)
• Some political predictions for 2015. (KQED)
• The governor appoints Gareth Elliott, a top aide, to the UC Board of Regents. This is almost certainly in response to a proposed tuition increase the governor opposes. (L.A. Times)
• The state prison system is re-examining a policy of withholding calls and visits at a new psychiatric unit on death row at San Quentin State Prison. (AP)
• The California Fair Political Practices Commission had a busy 2014. (Capitol Weekly)
• U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is retiring. Let the jockeying begin! (L.A. Times)
Prediction: If this week is any indication, our 76-year-old governor will not be slowing down any during his fourth and final term.
Lisa Halverstadt contributed to this report.