Capitol Alert

Cracked bolts, climate change and Chipotle: Things Jerry Brown said over the years

When he steps down on Jan. 7, 2019, Gov. Jerry Brown will have served 16 years as California governor, a feat never before accomplished and unlikely to be repeated.

Along the way, he also was more quotable than most. Here’s a look back at some of what he had to say:

“There is no free lunch. This is an era of limits and we all had better get used to it.” – after becoming governor in 1975

“The way you have to approach the political process is something like piloting a canoe. If you stand up on one side, you’ll fall in. If you stand up on the other side, you’ll fall in. But if you paddle a little bit on the left side, then you paddle a little bit on the right side, you keep going right down the middle.” – addressing high school students in 1979

‘Less time talking to Zen Buddhists’

“If I were running for governor in 1982, at the ripe old age of 44, I would try to be less interesting, more boring, more conciliatory. I would spend more time talking to groups like this and less time talking to Zen Buddhists, astronauts and rock stars.” – speech to newspaper editors after losing a 1982 race for the U.S. Senate

“I believe the people of California would like a respite from me, and in some ways I would like a respite from them.” - announcing his decision to take a break from politics in 1982

“I knew where I was going, but too often I was going there by myself.” – reflecting on his first term as governor in 1988

It’s not enough to talk grass roots. You have to tangibilitize grass roots. You know what it means? It means you have to send us a check.” – inventing a new verb in a speech to Democratic activists in February 1989

“The incremental negative to my already pre-existing bundle of negative material is speculative and slight at best. And the incremental positive of an energized Democratic Party of hundreds of thousands of small contributors and activists way offsets the first factor in that equation.” – explaining why his “negative baggage” wouldn’t hurt the party in his first press conference as state Democratic Party chairman in 1989

In recession, back in office

“What a great time to celebrate the festival of lights and the whole idea that we’re running out of oil so we need a miracle. Now the miracle is not to find more oil, but to utilize the sun.” – at a Capitol Menorah lighting in December 2011

“It’s always going to be managing discontent and rising claims on a reluctant taxpayer. That kind of defines the job.” – December 2011

“I would like to say that on my watch, California met the challenge.” – December 2011

“I‘m not going to serve my good wine, the way I did last year.” – on prospects for negotiating the next budget with legislative Republicans, December 2011

“Contrary to those declinists, who sing of Texas and bemoan our woes, California is still the land of dreams – as well as the Dream Act.” – January 2012

“They’re like civil wars. They’re more vicious than other kinds of combats.” – on primary elections, in February 2012

“I think we’ll get this done well before the seventh generation.” – on high speed rail, March 2012

“The state’s bureaucracy is a labyrinth of disjointed boards, commissions, agencies and departments.” – March 2012

“It’s a pretzel palace of incredible complexity.” on the state budget, May 2012

“He only gets two helpings of kibble – one in the morning and one in the evening.” – on whether he was scrimping on food for first dog Sutter Brown, September 2012

“I want to get s--- done.” – July 2012

“I mean, look, shit happens.” – on cracked bolts on the San Francisco Bay Bridge, May 2013

“It’s not a burp. It’s barely a fart.” – on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s effort to recruit business from California, February 2013

“Governors can’t make it rain, but we’ll do everything that is humanly possible to allow for a flexible use of California’s water resources.” – on coping with drought, January 2014

“It used to be four years and free. Now in many cases it’s six years and expensive.” – on California higher education, January 2014

A budget in the black

“Put away your surplus.” – referencing the book of Genesis in relation to the state budget, January 2014

“Arnold had some big plans, but it does take some insider knowledge to get it done.” – on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legacy as California governor, September 2014

“Now, the state budget, after a decade of fiscal turbulence, is finally balanced.” – January 2015

“We must build on rock, not sand, so that when the storms come, our house stands.” – paraphrasing a biblical verse from the book of Matthew, January 2015

“Turning off that faucet a little quicker. Getting out of the shower a little faster. Not flushing the toilet every time.” – on personally coping with drought, April 2015

“We are talking about extinction.” – discussing climate change at the Vatican, July 2015

California vs. Trump

“If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite.” – following Donald Trump’s election as president, December 2016


“What I like about Chipotle is the limited menu. You stand in the line, get either brown rice or white rice, black beans or pinto beans.. You put a little cheese, a little this, a little that, and you’re out of there. I think that’s a model some of our universities need to follow.” – opining on higher education, May 2018

“There’s a time for an old guy, and there’s a time for a young guy. There’s a time with no hair on top of your head, and there’s a time for a guy with really nice hair.” – endorsing Gavin Newsom to replace him, June 2018

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