On election day in 2011 as an undecided voter alone in a cubicle at Wren Elementary School. I choose Republican Meg Whitman over Democrat Jerry Brown.. It was a difficult decision for me to make as there was little difference between the candidates in my mind. Both were moderately liberal and had plans to turn around California’s fiscal mess. Less than two years later I must admit my mistake. The State is much better off with Jerry Brown in charge rather than the political neophyte Whitman.
The logic of the conclusion is obvious. Had Whitman been sitting in the Governor’s mansion, she would have been powerless to moderate the legislature’s policies because of the veto proof super majority the Democratic Party currently enjoys in both the State Assembly and Senate. Partisan bickering would have continued unabated.
Instead of discussing education, environmental regulations, pension reform, prisons, water policy, job creation, etc.. it would have been the usual name calling that characterizes California politics. Instead of presenting their “just say no” policies, what’s left of the Republican Party is actually presenting credible alternatives on important issues.
If the Governorship and legislature remained split, Whitman would not likely be able to change or moderate legislation placed on her desk to sign. Left wing leaders in the Assembly and Senate could had their way on virtually every issue as there would be no ability for the GOP to uphold a veto. Enter seasoned leader Jerry Brown who in his later years has been described as being the closest thing to a Republican in Sacramento.
This is not say things are perfect or even good in the manor the State Government is being run, However, there have been some improvements under Jerry Brown’s tutilidge. Here is my report card for his first 18 months in office.
Putting out a State Budget in a timely fashion; B+
Despite their private displeasure with the Governor’s conservative approach of attempting to balance the budget, setting aside a small 1.2 billion dollar rainy day surplus, and not spending anticipated increased revenues with the State’s economy improving, there is little liberals can do to thwart Brown. Had Whitman or Arnold done the same thing, chaos would have reined supreme in Sacramento. And to get this job completed by the appointed deadline!
Schools & Education; B+
The Governor has carried out the mandate of the voters who passed Proposition 30 in the 2012 elections and placed needed funds back into the public education system. Brown gets extra credit for insisting that a larger allocation of spending decisions be transferred from the State to local school boards where historically money has been more frugally allocated. Brown has his B+ mark partially tarnished because of not dealing with the underfunded teachers pensions. This will have to be dealt with at a later time but we must give him credit for what has been recently accomplished. Remember, “Rome was not built in a day.”
Prison administration and overcrowding; B
Brown gets credit for holding the line on making expenditures for operating the prison system. He also get high marks for fighting the frivolous court order to reduce the prison population because of overcrowding. His solution of reducing sentences for good behavior and moving non violent offenders to County facilities has merit. The biggest problem of carrying out this policy is the lack of State funds being made available to the counties to cover the costs of probation officers, mental health counseling, police, and other expenses that are incurred when inmates are released.
Paying off Past Debt; C+
Solid criticism was handed down by Richard Colman on this blog for the Governor not taking into account the huge unfunded mandates in the CALPERS Pension fund which has been projected to be from 500 million to one trillion dollars depending on the performance of the stock market. However, it must be realized Brown got the legislature to pass a modest pension reform program last year and has promised to do more in the future. We will see.
Building the Bullet Train D
The idea to build this rail transportation system is a “noble experiment” but so was prohibition. Similar projects have been successfully been constructed in recent years throughout the world (especially in China). The only problem for California is that there are not enough funds available today from the Federal Government to take on such a challenging project. Unless private capital can be attracted, it is best to put construction on hold until America gets serious about making infrastructure improvements.
Water Policies; D-
Basically, Governor Brown is trying to resurrect the discredited Pheriferal Dam concept by constructing two huge tunnels on the Delta to divert water to thirsty urban centers in Southern California. Carrying out this project would prove to be a disaster to the fragile ecosystem as added salt intrusion to the area would likely destroy whatever has not been trashed in the past half century. A better policy might be to start building more water storage facilities through the State to better manage H 20 resources.
Returning revenues to the Cities and Counties; F
When the state budget was buried in red ink at the time Brown took office, he took redevelopment funds away from the cities and cut additional revenue streams given local communities for infrastructure improvements. As of yet, none of these cuts have been returned to the cities and counties. Because of this policy, it has proven necessary for many cities to raise local sales taxes rates to to make up the shortfall. Hopefully, Brown will do for munipalities what he has done for education and give money back to the cities to spend as they see fit.
At the end of the day when all grades are tabulated, I have to give the Governor passing marks (C+ avg) for his job performance. While there is plenty of room for improvement, there is no doubt Meg Whitman, were she elected, would have accomplished far less than the reigning top executive. Lets not forget that if anything happended to 75 year old Governor Brown, waiting in the wings to replace him would be former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newesome. Stay healthy Jerry!