Gov. Jerry Brown offered up his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature this week, keeping it brief (20 minutes) and focusing on a similar message to what he delivered when announcing his budget proposal earlier this month – restraint, prudence, the certainty of another future recession.

“Here at the state Capitol we often think we have more control over things than we actually do,” Brown said. “The challenge is to solve today’s problems without making those of tomorrow even worse.”

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, taking her final turn as presiding speaker for the State-of-the-State hoopla, supported the governor’s message while pointing out that fiscal prudence shouldn’t turn a blind eye to “posterity.”

“Not every Californian feels the prosperity we are seeing returning to California,” she said in later remarks, highlighting the need to continue to fund programs for the disadvantaged, including increasing resources for developmentally disabled services.

She praised the governor’s proposed 51 percent increase in funding for K-12 education and also pointed out that in the past two budgets she has helped to craft, Democratic legislators have used small increases in the overall amount to boost the “earned income tax credit, childcare slots, educational opportunities.”

Funding those programs increased the final budget by “less than 1 percent” she said, highlighting that the governor and legislators aren’t as far off in their approach to spending as it may seem.

“I think the governor is right to plead fiscal responsibility and prudence but this is a dance we do every year and the media loves it,” she said. “They like to talk about, ‘the Democrats want to spend billions and billions of dollars’ … (But) these are not outrageous extra programs. These are programs that are trying to restore what we had before.”

Atkins also spoke to VOSD about the impending increase in enrollment at University of California campuses, including UCSD. She met with staff there this week to discuss the impact new students will have on the community and the economy, and “how to be supportive of that,” she said, adding that it could potentially be 3,000 to 4,000 additional young adults coming to San Diego over a three-year period.

She also stressed the need for San Diego to focus on affordable housing.

“The affordable housing crisis is a huge crisis and we feel it directly in San Diego,” she said. “We’re going to have to figure out a way to educate our communities that this is our next big crisis for jobs and the economy.”

Other SD Lawmakers React to Brown’s Speech

Off the dais, other San Diego legislators had their own reactions to Brown’s remarks.

Sen. Ben Hueso agreed with Brown’s continued commitment to pump up the rainy day fund (Brown asked for an additional $2 billion deposit in that safety net) – noting that he’d pursued a similar savings-oriented approach as a San Diego city councilman back in the day.

He also said he supports the water management projects that are beginning to come on line through Prop. 1 – the $7.5 billion water bond measure passed in 2014. But he’s holding out on a position on Brown’s controversial Delta tunnels project. The governor didn’t mention the tunnels directly, but referred to the need for “reliable conveyance” and burying the pitch in a hyperlink off that phrase in the published version of his speech. But everyone knew what he was talking about, since he talks about it a lot.

“The reason I don’t have a position there’s nothing to really evaluate at this point,” Hueso said of the tunnels. “We have a concept and theory. Scientifically it makes sense. It would solve the problem if it could be built. There are plenty of arguments that it can’t be built.”

Hueso added that he was “disappointed” the governor didn’t touch on one of his conveyance issues: border wait times.

Hueso has long championed enhanced driver’s licenses as a means of helping expedite traffic at the border and streamlining passage for frequent travelers – an issue he sees as having economic, environmental and quality of life impacts. Last year, the governor vetoed Hueso’s bill on the issue, SB 249, saying that he believed the U.S. passport card served the same purpose “without imposing new burdens” on the DMV.

Hueso said he met with the governor’s staff this week “to talk about, ‘if not enhanced driver’s licenses, then what?’”

He added that he likely will not re-introduce new legislation on the issue, but isn’t giving up.

“I don’t want to introduce a bill just to get it vetoed again,” he said. “I’m willing to work with the governor to reduce wait times. I’m not going to stop working on the issue of border wait times, that’s certain.”

Hueso also introduced the Equal Gender Pricing Bill this week, SB 899, that would forbid retailers from upping the price on similar items (like razors and deodorant) based on which gender they are aimed at. One study found that products targeting women cost more 42 percent of the time. It’s a problem that trickles all the way down to kids – girls’ toys cost about 7 percent more than ones for boys, according to another study.

♦♦♦

For Sen. Marty Block, Brown’s comments on education caught his attention. He praised the increase in K-12 funding but said in a statement that the “best way to avoid a future downturn is to have a thriving economy.”

Speaking to VOSD later in the day, Block stressed that his priority was making sure Californians had the opportunity to train for high-paying jobs, and that the state didn’t rely on pulling talent from other states and countries.

“We need to train 80,000 more workers (annually) for California’s economy than we are training now,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with people coming in to help us out, but we have Californians and California families that aren’t able to get jobs because they don’t have the training.”

He pointed to the results of his SB 850 as a way to address the issue – the bill created a pilot program to allow community colleges to begin offering four-year degrees. Last fall, Mesa College became the first in the state to begin that effort, with $350,000 secured by Block to help fund a program in health information management. Fifteen students are enrolled so far, and Block predicts they will easily find jobs in the “$80,000 to $130,000” range when they graduate.

Golden State News

• Former City Councilman Carl DeMaio announced he’s pulling his pension reform measure and will shoot instead for 2018, when he and other backers think it has a better chance of passing. One critic argues 2018 won’t be any more favorable: “The most likely scenario: pension changes will continue to be negotiated at the bargaining table – right where those discussions should occur – instead of on the ballot.” (L.A. Times, Fox & Hounds Daily)

• Vaccination rates are ticking up in California. Though last session’s law mandating vaccinations for most public school students doesn’t take effect until July, “it seems reasonable that all the focus on vaccinations — and those who choose not to vaccinate —  last year had an impact,” writes KQED.

• The L.A. Times’ John Myers gives an overview of Brown’s message.

• Dan Morain in the Sacramento Bee was one of the first to catch Brown’s tunnel vision.

• The Bee also reports on environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer backing a push tax cigarettes to fund health care.

• The Coastal Commission’s environmentally minded leader is under attack from board members who favor development — will he keep his job? (Capitol Weekly)

• “A political searcher in San Diego agitates for the independent nation of California.” (L.A. Times). 

Despite extra funding for schools from the Legislature this year, California may not have enough teachers to go around, the Contra Costa Times reports. 

Anita Chabria

Anita Chabria is a freelance writer in Sacramento covering politics and culture. Follow her at @chabriaa or reach...

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