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Jerry Brown’s Statist Curtain Call

Friday January 26th, 2018   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 12:05pm PST   •  

Before Jerry Brown’s 16th and final State of the State address Thursday, the New York Times wondered if he would use the address to “push for reforms in California’s notoriously dysfunctional tax system, hamstrung by Proposition 13 and a heavy reliance on volatile capital gains tax revenues.” Brown did no such thing but he did say the state’s new $5.2 billion gas tax was “essential,” and that he would “do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort.”

Brown, 79, called for five million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2030 but he also used the speech to promote the state’s high-speed rail project. “Yes, it costs a lot of money,” Brown said, but it was “cheaper and more convenient than expanding airports and building new freeways.” The bullet train would be “fast, quiet and powered by renewable electricity and last 100 years” and it was already employing 1,500 construction workers.

Brown said California has “boldly embraced the Affordable Care Act,” enrolling 1.3 million into the state exchange. This depended on billions of federal dollars, and Brown said “Thank God for John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. Along with Democrats they prevailed and protected health care for tens of millions of Americans.” No word about the ACA being responsible for what health reporter Emily Bazar calls “widespread consumer misery.”

The governor cited pension reform as an example that “Some American governments can actually get things done.” On the other hand, Brown did not provide any numbers on the state’s fathomless pension debt, and did not repeat his recent warnings that at some point, government pensions would have to be cut back.

No data on student achievement turned up in the speech but Brown did say that “spending has dramatically recovered,” with a $5.8 billion increase in support of higher education. Brown said job one was “to support teachers and give them the training and freedom to teach as they know best.” Nothing about giving more educational choice to students and parents, especially in minority areas. Nothing about lowering the state’s income and sales taxes, highest in the United States. And nothing about regulatory reform, or unelected bodies such as the Coastal Commission that override voters and trample property rights.

Brown’s speech was a hit with legislators, who applauded heartily and chanted “Jerry! Jerry!” For their part, California taxpayers could be forgiven for believing that the true state of their state is much more statist than their recurring governor indicated.

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January 2018