(photo credit: Jeff’s Canon)
Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State address contained many of the same broad messages from his speech in 2013, touting California’s comeback while calling for prudence and frugality. Gov. Brown proudly trotted out numbers such as a million jobs created since 2010, billions in surplus, and the raise in state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour as evidence of the turnaround.
The major takeaway for CA Fwd is the strong alignment of Governor Brown’s agenda with our vision for the proper governance of California.
On protecting the state’s fiscal house:
“So we can’t go back to ‘business as usual.’ Boom and bust is our lot and we must follow the ancient advice, recounted in the Book of Genesis, that Joseph gave to the Pharaoh: Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow.”
“Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our democracy but its fundamental predicate. To avoid the mistakes of the past we must spend with great prudence and we must establish a solid rainy day fund, locked into the Constitution.”
CA Fwd has advocated tirelessly for the adoption of a strong rainy day fund into the Constitution to help preserve spikes in revenue and protect the state during future crises, whether they be natural or man-made disasters. There will always be a desire to spend surpluses on programs, but state leaders must look beyond the present and see the inevitable crisis that looms if a strong reserve is not established and funded.
The Governor also highlighted the success in moving the control of state programs to local authorities and achieving better results:
“Last year, I spoke of the principle of subsidiarity, a rather clunky word that nevertheless points to a profoundly important principle, namely that in our federal system there are separate layers of government, each with its own distinct responsibilities. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a ‘central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.'”
“In all this, your legislative work – particularly funding – is crucial but we should never lose sight of the reality that life is local and that so many things we try to do here in the State Capitol can only be handled by local representatives and leaders. They deal not with the abstractions of law but with the flesh and blood reality of everyday life.”
From the beginning of our ambitious mission, CA Fwd has urged the state to look toward local authorities as the solution to community and regional problems. In many cases, state legislators and agency officials are no better equipped than federal officials to deal with the on-the-ground issues facing Californians. Rather than looking at local jurisdictions as competition for tax dollars and policy solutions, the State should continue its growing practice of partnering with local authorities to bring data-driven solutions to California communities.
The Governor spoke of two promising reforms thus far: Local Control Funding Formula (education) and Public Safety Realignment. Now the focus has to be on implementation if communities are going to see better results.
The Governor ended his address by focusing on climate change and highlighting where California industries continue to lead nationally, if not globally. By working with the Governor and the Legislature, CA Fwd is looking to the future of the state’s economic prosperity. Through the Economic Summit, the Governor can embrace the principles of the triple-bottom line and the solutions developed by regional leaders to revitalize or create new leading industries alongside a sustainability strategy.
This year’s State of the State address shows how CA Fwd’s governance and fiscal reforms are not only working, but have permeated the governing mantra of the state’s chief executive. We will continue to work with Gov. Brown and the Legislature to push for further improvements to state governance through data-driven solutions, accountability, and transparency. Only then can California can from the comeback kid to an over-achiever.