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State Of The State: Jerry Brown Talks Tax Hikes, Cuts And High-Speed Rail

Aaron Liu |
January 18, 2012 | 4:40 p.m. PST

Associate News Editor

Brown traveled California Wednesday to rally support for his message.
Brown traveled California Wednesday to rally support for his message.
Gov. Jerry Brown hit the road Wednesday to rally support for his 2012 agenda that includes scaling down government services and raising taxes while simultaneously investing in long-term projects such as a high-speed rail line.

Brown spoke at Los Angeles City Hall hours after delivering his "State of the State" address Wednesday morning in Sacramento. Facing a room packed to the brim with reporters and constituents like former Governor of California Gray Davis, Brown re-read his "State of the State" address to the crowd and then defended his proposals during a Q&A session with the audience.

"Now we're coming back," said Brown off-the-cuff during his address in Los Angeles, referring to California's future prospects. "It's going to be slow slogging but we're coming back."

At the heart of Brown's address was a message of austerity. During his speech, Brown reiterated his support for raising taxes and cutting government services while acknowledging that both were tough options.

"I propose cuts and temporary taxes," said Brown in both Sacramento and Los Angeles. "Neither is popular but both must be done."

He emphasized that tough cuts had to be made, and stood firm when some members in the audience asked him to reconsider.

"Don't worry about lawsuits - we get sued everyday," Brown remarked lightheartedly in Los Angeles, after saying "no" to a questioner's plea to delay cuts to the Community Redevelopment Agency till May. "Go ahead on the lawsuits."

Brown lent a large portion of his time toward education, making it clear he would like to hand over more authority to local school districts and reform the way the state evaluates teachers and administrators. In his address, Brown gave voters a tough choice: raise taxes on Californians or kill funding for public schools.

"It is imperative that California devote more tax dollars to this most basic of public services," Brown said in his address. "If we are successful in passing the temporary taxes I have proposed and the economy continues to expand, schools will be in a much stronger position."

Yet even with the tax hikes, school districts might end up making cuts anyway. Budget analysts and lobbyists have said that by making school funds dependent on an unpredictable November ballot, Brown is forcing school districts to scale down for the worst already.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist and advisor to schools throughout the state, concurred...that educators cannot count on the taxes passing. He said school officials should make cuts before November.

"The notion of not knowing for sure what funding you'll have is almost laughable if it wasn't so dead serious," Gordon said.

Back at Los Angeles City Hall, Brown drew out the most applause while talking about plans to develop a high-speed rail system connecting Northern and Southern California. Brown told the audience that the state had secured the majority of funding for the multi-billion dollar project from the federal government. In response to critics, Brown alluded to the development of major transportation projects like the BART and the Suez Canal, both of which faced criticism during their inception from the mayor of Berkeley and Benjamin Disraeli, respectively.

"The critics were wrong then and they're wrong now," said Brown.

Along with education and high-speed rail, Brown touched on issues of pension reform, prison realignment to lower costs and reduce recidivism, and making headway on renewable energy. The governor emphasized that at the end of the day, California had to curb spending or face serious consequences.

"I know we're a long ways from Greece, but it kind of models the path we're about to take," Brown said. "We're a long way from there, but if we don't shift, we'll get there."

Following his speech in Los Angeles, Brown headed to Burbank to meet with teachers at a local elementary school.

On Thursday, Brown will travel to Orange County and San Diego to continue selling his agenda.


Read Brown's full address at The Sacramento Bee.



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