Gov. Jerry Brown will turn 76 next month, and has filed for re-election in February, and is running for an unprecedented fourth term as governor. He was elected governor in 1974, 1978, and 2010. Can a septuagenarian Governor Brown manage the Golden State?
By comparison, the legendary Gov. Earl Warren was elected for just three terms — in 1942, 1946, and 1950. Of course age should not matter if a candidate is healthy and remains so. What does matter is his policies.
Since 1970, Brown, a Democrat, has served, not only as governor, but as California’s Secretary of State, Attorney General, and chairman of the California Democratic Party. He was also mayor of Oakland for eight years.
During his first two terms (1975-1983), Brown was dubbed Governor Moonbeam because he had ideas about having a state program to explore outer space.
He was governor when Proposition 13 passed on June 6, 1978. The proposition, which passed by a 65% to 35% majority, rolled back 1978 property taxes to 1975 levels, required a two-thirds vote by local voters to raise property taxes, and placed a property-tax limit of one percent of the assessed value of residential and commercial property.
Prior to Proposition 13, property taxes could be raised without a vote. If a property’s assessed value went up, property taxes also went up automatically.
After being elected to his third gubernatorial term in 2010, Brown seemed more seasoned and more mature. When he took office in January 2011, California was $25 billion in debt. Now, California has a $4.2 billion surplus.
The surplus can be attributed to two factors.
First, in 2012 and 2013, American stocks have risen about 44 percent in value, producing capital-gains income for California.
Second, in November 2012, Brown helped persuade Californians vote for Proposition 30, a ballot measure which raised the state’s sales tax by one-quarter percentage point and gave California the nation’s highest top bracket for a state’s personal income tax: 13.3 percent.
Assuming a septuagenarian Governor Brown wins a fourth term in November 2014, he will preside over a high-tax, high-wage, and high-service state. California has a vast higher-education system, plenty of state water projects, and thousands of miles of freeways.
California already has the highest state sales tax in the nation. The Golden State also has the nation’s highest gasoline tax. The state legislature, in November 2013, was the highest paid in the nation. In December 2013, the legislature received a pay raise and continued its status as the nation’s highest paid state legislature.
California has the seventh highest corporate income tax in the nation.
Despite Brown’s current $4.2 billion surplus, California has between $500 billion to $1 trillion in unfunded liabilities. These liabilities are related to pensions due to state employees and to the state’s school teachers.
If, after a fourth term as governor, a septuagenarian Governor Brown, assuming he wins re-election as governor in November 2014, can reduce, as he has promised, these unfunded liabilities, he might go down in history as an effective governor.
And if Brown can reduce the burden on the state’s taxpayers as well as create more jobs, he might eventually be remembered as a great governor.