SACRAMENTO – Warning that California will not create the jobs it needs “unless we get our financial house in order,” Gov. Jerry Brown challenged state legislators today to allow people to vote on his three-part plan to solve the state’s financial crisis.
“My intention is to make California again a leader in job creation, renewable energy and state of the art efficiency, innovation of all kinds and primary and secondary education,” he said in his State of the State address before a joint session of the state legislature.
Brown also said the state must ensure that public employee pensions are fair to both taxpayers and workers, and he called for elimination of unreasonable regulations that hamper investment and job creation.
“Our universities are world renowned and I intend to see that they continue to enjoy the respect of students and scholars throughout the world,” the Governor said. “We also have to restructure our criminal justice system, carefully realign state and local government functions, and streamline state government. All of this can happen if we find the courage and summon the will to tackle our budget deficit head on and deal with it honestly and without purpose of evasion.”
Brown warned that this is not a time for “politics as usual.”
“Voters are clearly telling us that our state and our nation are going in the wrong direction,” he said. “Yet, our two main political parties both in Washington and in California are as far apart as I have ever seen them.”
Brown has proposed $12.5 billion in budget cuts, temporary extension of current taxes and an historical realignment of government – a program that would require a vote of the people in a special election before it could become effective.
“If you are a Democrat who doesn’t want to make budget reductions in programs you fought for and deeply believe in, I understand that,” the Governor said. “If you are a Republican who has taken a stand against taxes, I understand where you are coming from. But things are different this time. In fact, the people are telling us–in their own way–that they sense that something is profoundly wrong. They see that their leaders are divided when they should be decisive and acting with clear purpose.”
Brown said “it would be unconscionable” for legislators to block a special election.
“When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people,” he told the legislators. “In the ordinary course of things, matters of state concern are properly handled in Sacramento. But when the elected representatives find themselves bogged down by deep differences which divide them, the only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance. It is time for a legislative check-in with the people of California.”
The Governor said the voters have a right to decide whether taxes should be temporarily extended or whether additional budget cuts should be enacted, including new cuts to public schools, universities, public safety and health programs.
“My plan to rebuild California requires a vote of the people, and frankly I believe it would be irresponsible for us to exclude the people from this process,” he said. “They have a right to vote on this plan. This state belongs to all of us, not just those of us in this chamber. Given the unique nature of the crisis and the serious impact our decisions will have on millions of Californians, the voters deserve to be heard.”
Brown acknowledged that his rescue plan is not universally popular.
“From the time I first proposed what I believe to be a balanced approach to our budget deficit – both cuts and a temporary extension of current taxes – dozens of groups affected by one or another of the proposed cuts have said we should cut somewhere else instead. Still others say we should not extend the current taxes but let them go away. So far, however, these same people have failed to offer even one alternative solution.”
The Governor said that he sees both difficult choices and a bright future.
“When we get our budget in balance, California will be in a strong position to take advantage of its many assets and its strategic location on the Pacific Rim. As the countries of Asia and south of our border continue to thrive and expand their trade, our state will play a leading role, as it always has, and reap unimagined benefits.
“We have the inventors, the dreamers, the entrepreneurs, the venture capitalists and a vast array of physical, intellectual and political assets. We have been called the great exception because for generations Californians have defied the odds and the conventional wisdom and prospered in totally unexpected ways. People keep coming here because of the dream that is still California, and once here, their determination and boundless energy feeds that dream and makes it grow.”