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Checking in On Jerry Brown


California Governor Jerry Brown has had some noteworthy success in dealing with the state’s deficit and unemployment rate, but it’s still not clear whether he has found long-term solutions, or has temporarily steered the state away from the brink.

Governor Brown has commanded victories that have eluded many of his fellow Democrats: California’s credit rating is now at its highest level since before the recession, and new legislation could spur economically beneficial fracking projects. For these and other reasons, Jerry Brown is not the kind of blue public official who is wedded to every brick and tile of the old, broken model. But the two main scourges of every blue model city and state remain significant and largely unreformed challenges in California: pensions and an unsustainable tax system. An excellent report in Bloomberg explains:

The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the higher taxes yield $6 billion a year, while saying the actual number is “subject to multibillion-dollar swings.” Income taxes provide the largest share of state revenue, followed by sales levies. Rates reach 13.3 percent on those making $1 million or more, the most of any state. Making top earners responsible for more revenue increased volatility.

“The top 1 percent pays 50 percent of the income taxes,” [former Brown aide Nathan] Gardels said in an interview. “We’re still subject to the same boom-and-bust cycles in this state.”

Alongside the state’s volatile revenue system remains a $100 billion pension liability and $2 billion (and rising) for health and dental care to prisoners. It’s not clear Governor Brown has the political will to force unions or Democratic lawmakers into reform:

Brown reached a deal this year with the state’s largest public-employee union that grants workers a 2 percent pay increase effective July 1, 2014, if revenue growth continues, and 2.5 percent a year later. If revenue fails to meet a minimum target, the entire 4.5 percent raise begins July 1, 2015.…

Brown and Democratic lawmakers also reached a compromise over pensions that fell short of the governor’s goal of ending full pension guarantees for new workers.

Brown may be willing to settle for such compromises because Democratic voters don’t tend to get angry about unsustainably high taxes on the wealthy and high pay for public workers. And if Brown runs again, he’ll have a $10 million war chest on hand, while the two Republicans who have announced their candidacies have $45,000 and $27,000, respectively.

On the other hand, plenty of people sense that Brown and his Democratic supermajority in the legislature are still steering a sinking ship. A recent USC/LA Times poll found that only 32 percent of respondents said they’d vote to re-elect Brown; 37 percent said they’d vote for someone else.

If the GOP is the master of fiscal responsibility and harbinger of growth and opportunity it seems to think it is, a receptive audience may await in the Golden State. Plenty of voters seem to think that the abyss remains near, and that things could be much better than they currently are.

[Governor Jerry Brown image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Corlyss

    “If the GOP is the master of fiscal responsibility and harbinger of growth and opportunity it seems to think it is, a receptive audience may await in the Golden State.”
    It’s going to take someone of special gravitas and vision to swing Ca., not the crop of clowns and publicity hounds on offer from the St*pid Party for the last two cycles.

    • Andrew Allison

      More to the point, Romney’s infamous “47%” is probably more like 67% in CA. Hispanics (which CA’s bilingual education system guarantees will remain an underclass) are already, or soon will be, the largest ethnic group. Factor in the lock which public employee unions have on the legislature and the outlook is decidedly uninspiring.

      • Corlyss

        “are already, or soon will be, the largest ethnic group”

        Numbers, Andrew? You know I don’t buy your analysis that Republicans have to who*re after the national Hispanic vote because they’re just not big enough to matter once you take out the illegals. Persuade me that they matter in California.

        • rheddles

          From USA Today

          Demographers predict the number of Hispanics in the state will equal that of whites by mid-year and exceed it in early 2014 for the first time. Each group represents about 39 percent of the population.

          Whites lack a majority in only two other states — Hawaii and New Mexico.

          Demographers say Hispanics’ share of the overall California population will continue to increase to about 41 percent by 2020, when whites will make up less than 37 percent.

          By 2060, Hispanics could account for 48 percent of the state’s population, with whites falling below 30 percent.

          • rheddles

            By 2050 there will be active credible efforts at repatriation of Caliphornia to Mexico. La Raza and MEChA will continue to grow and will become mainstream. Eventually, their “militant wing” will flush out the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who support the San Francisco liberals. Where will the Diaspora go? Seattle or Denver? Boston Redux?

          • Andrew Allison

            Go to Mexico without having to move? Western Australia for good inexpensive healthcare [grin]?

          • Corlyss

            Thank you, too, Rhed, for the link to data.

        • Andrew Allison

          Corlyss, you know me better than that [grin]. I don’t make stuff up: But I obviously failed to make my point, namely that fiscal responsibility is the very last thing a (rising) majority of Californians want.

          • Corlyss

            That’s why I asked [grin back attcha]

  • DarkstarSF

    Fracking in California? The Sierra Club will NEVER allow it.

  • GodisanAmerican

    Mead, a good writer of sentences no doubt but he, like most of the right wing pundits, falls into thinking ‘what’s is right works’ not ‘what works is right’. For example, He takes such a delight cherry picking data that counters climate change theory and every wrinkle in blue state ‘model’ whatever that means. He seems to be smarter cousin of those creationists who have no problem believing talking snakes, resurrection, world created in seven days etc. but suddenly turn agnostic in face of real evidence.
    Climate science may not be settled science like evolution but to deny climate change amounts to believing that scientists (except ones paid by oil companies) all over the world are some sort of conspiracy to deny Americans their Humvees.
    It will be nice to be reminded of red state heavens. Mississippi, Alabama, anyone?

  • ljgude

    I’m interested in WRM’s report card for a Blue State governor closer to home – Cuomo. Some closely observed comparisons between Christie’s performance Purple NJ and Blue NY would be even more welcome. I’m a New Yorker and former resident of Joisey living in Western Australia and would like to see more up close and personal coverage these two possible contenders.

  • Bruce

    Only 32% said they’ve vote for Brown? Did they know his opponent would be a Republican? Once they figure that out, it will change the polling.

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