Dan Walters

Dan Walters

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown's agenda has a tough slog

Published: Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 - 11:52 am

The New York Times published what has become a standard paean to Jerry Brown from the out-of-state media the other day, citing his balancing the budget and implying that he sparked California's emergence from recession.

"When Jerry Brown became governor of California again, three years ago, this state was on a steep decline, crushed by budget deficits, deep spending cuts, governmental paralysis, high unemployment and a collapsing housing market. California, a place that once symbolized promise and opportunity, seemed caught in an intractable reversal of fortune," The Times article crooned.

"The state's budget problems are largely resolved, at least for the short term," it continued. "Mr. Brown is the dominant figure in Sacramento, strengthened by overwhelming Democratic control of the Legislature and the decline of the Republican Party. He has pushed through major initiatives on education financing and prison reorganization. Even Republicans say his re-election next year seems considerably more than likely."

"Some people were ridiculing California, and some were calling it a failed state," The Times quoted Brown as saying in a brief interview. "The unemployment came down from 12.2 to 8.5. Real estate is rebounding. There's a lot of confidence out there. That's what happened."

The Times reporter did include a few caveats, albeit briefly, about Brown's second governorship, but the overwhelming tone was very positive.

The reality is considerably more nuanced.

With the budget temporarily in balance, Brown has turned to other issues but is finding the going tough.

He's losing his fight with the federal courts over prison overcrowding, and backtracking on threats to release dangerous inmates. "Realignment" to reduce inmates is beginning to bind as counties push back on costs and critics claim it increases crime.

A judge has ruled that Brown's bullet train project violates state law. He faces implacable opposition to his big water project. Environmentalists are complaining about his California Environmental Quality Act reforms. And the simultaneous overhaul of school finance and adoption of "Common Core" standards is a high-wire act with uncertain outcomes.

Meanwhile, California's economic recovery may be slowing, the latest employment figures indicate, and the state still has 1.7 million jobless workers, nearly twice as many as it had five years ago.

The Times is correct about Brown's political situation. There's almost no doubt that he will seek another term in 2014 and there's even less doubt that he would win easily. But while the Democrats' decisive margins in the Legislature would seem to make governing easier, Brown must constantly lower the expectations of the Legislature's dominant liberals to tax more, spend more and regulate more.

Call The Bee's Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/walters. Follow him on Twitter @WaltersBee.

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Read more articles by Dan Walters



Dan Walters, political columnist

Dan Walters

Dan Walters has been a journalist for more than a half-century, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. At one point in his career, at age 22, he was the nation's youngest daily newspaper editor.

He joined The Sacramento Union's Capitol bureau in 1975, just as Jerry Brown began his first governorship, and later became the Union's Capitol bureau chief. In 1981, Walters began writing the state's only daily newspaper column devoted to California political, economic and social events and, in 1984, he and the column moved to The Sacramento Bee. He has written more than 7,500 columns about California and its politics and his column now appears in dozens of California newspapers.

Email: dwalters@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1195
Twitter: @WaltersBee

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