Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

What Will Jerry Brown Bring To Sacramento?


Governor-elect Jerry Brown wants a budget agreement in place by March. Brown says the state budget is much worse than he thought. The governor-elect told state education officials to "fasten your seat belt. It's going to be a rough ride, but we'll get through it." We talk about what Jerry Brown might bring to the State Capital, and his first-year challenges.

Governor-elect Jerry Brown wants a budget agreement in place by March. Brown says the state budget is much worse than he thought. The governor-elect told state education officials to "fasten your seat belt. It's going to be a rough ride, but we'll get through it." We talk about what Jerry Brown might bring to the State Capital, and his first-year challenges.


Alisa Joyce Barba, independent editor with NPR member stations

Scott Lewis, chief executive officer of

Ricky Young, watchdog editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

GLORIA PENNER: Two weeks from Monday, former California governor Jerry Brown will become governor again, and that in itself is unusual. The decade it is between his last term and his new one are somewhat decades more than people who are voting, who voted for him were even born of buff there's a sense among dissenters and detractors that there's something almost mystical about this timing. Alisa, the state is on the brink of financial collapse, it's acknowledged that only unusual skill could lead us out of the crisis. What's likely to happen with Jerry Brown as governor?

BARBA: Well, just one thought, I was thinking about what kind of personalities we vote into office here in California between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, it never ceases to be vastly entertaining.

GLORIA PENNER: Don't forget Ronald Regan.

BARBA: I know we have to go back to him as well. But I think what we're looking at, I think it seems to me that Jerry Brown is coming in as kind of a -- at least he sounding like a hard headed realist. He said he looked the budget, he looked at the numbers and this week, he basically told a forum of educators that, you know, it is really scary. Heed buckle your belts, get on, it's gonna be a horrible ride. And what it seems most of the pundits are saying what's gone happen in the short term, there's gonna be a very austere budget that's gonna come out in early January with, you know, even more draconian cut, even more people being laid off, pink slip, education funding going down, education being the biggest package of all the funding for the state. Very austere budget, then looking ahead to putting a ballot initiative on the ballot I think in next fall, which may look at new revenue increase, tax increases.

GLORIA PENNER: Would that have to be a ballot initiative.

BARBA: Yes, it would have to be a ballot initiative, I think.

GLORIA PENNER: In other words, he can't just leave it up to the legislature --

BARBA: You can't leave anything up to the legislature here in California.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. Let me send out a message to our callers. Before it's too late. There you have it, governor Jerry Brown, January 3rd, he will know your governor. What do you expect from him? I used words like mystical, some people say magical, some people say same old same old. But do you think he's got what it takes to salvage sa -- I was gonna say San Diego. Salvage California? Let us know. 1-888-895-5727. 895 KPBS. Ricky, you wanted to say something.

YOUNG: Yeah, just the parallels are fascinating to me, with what we went through in San Diego, the [CHECK] hurt public safety and especially education. And then likely end up going for a tax increase or at least to retain some taxes. There's a sales tax that's going to go -- that's set to expire on July 1st. And I expect at the very least, you'll see that tax extended. Interestingly, I had a discussion with Dave Rolland at this table when he swore, oh, my goodness, that tax is going to go do you happen. And I said maybe you have more faith in Sacramento than I do.

GLORIA PENNER: David Rolland is editor of CityBeat, and a very well regular participant on the Editors Roundtable.

YOUNG: Yeah, so my feeling was that Sacramento would find a way to extend that. And it does look like that's what the governor is aiming toward. And probably some other revenue increases as well, once people see the cuts that he says would be necessary. Of now, interestingly, one thing he's doing in outlining those cuts is promising not to use any gimmicks or tricks in the budget. Now, every year, gimmicks and tricks are what end up balancing the budget. And that's what you're seeing in San Diego right now, or at least you will real soon, when they put a budget out, they'll be giving some tricks to plug the holes. And the cuts that were predicted, if people didn't vote for Prop D, won't be coming through. And I'm sorry, one more thought on this. The --

GLORIA PENNER: Our editors have so much to say this morning. Go ahead.

YOUNG: What I find is interesting is the governor was going to make a 20 percent cut to his own office budget, and has now said, given what he's soon, that he wants to make a 25 percent budget cut to his office budget. When injury brown was campaigning for Prop D, and talking about all the cuts that he'd have to make, larger to public safety, I never heard him say he'd be making a cut to the mayor's office. Now, I didn't go to all the public forums so maybe he did. But I just think it's interesting that Jerry Brown is promising that. Of he says the governor's office is much, much bigger than it was when he was in office in the 70s and he's gonna get it back to that size or close to it.

GLORIA PENNER: All right. Scott, you got it all in, Ricky. Scott, the question is, I mean, we talked about the governor having to be austere fiscally. We're heading into a really problem time. But he's also got a reputation as a humanitarian. How is he going to balance something to severely cut social services and education and retain his reputation or his sense of himself as a humanitarian?

LEWIS: Well, I mean, look at his campaign. There was a major theme that he kept alluding to over and over again, which was that, look, I have nothing to lose, basically. I've, you know, I've had such a career, this is my chance to sort of let it out. The sort of older guys, like, you know, I don't care anymore type thing. So maybe he'll do some pretty radical and interesting things of there's two themes that I find interesting going on in state politics right now. On the one hand, they just pegged the budget deficit the $28 billion, and they're talking about how bad that, and they're really making that point. And if you look at the numbers, it's just horrifying. You could cut the entire higher education budget and the prison budget and still in the make up that kind of money. On the other hand -- so they're lowering expectations, this is as bad as it gets. But on the other hand, there's a wave of California exceptionalism coming out, of -- brown has been making the point recently a lot that this is a very wealthy state, it's a very prosperous state. It's doing very well. And the state government itself is -- it's just sick. It's a small, sick problem that you could -- that this state, this very wealthy state could take care of. Which in other words means, you know, we should just tax more in some ways and we should be able to ride this ship. Preparing people for the idea that we're doing well, the state just needs to deal with it. But unless he offers reforms that Republicans can really feel comfortable with, there's going to be a block, an intransigence that I don't think will foster the kinds of process that we need. So I think those two elements, California exceptionalism, along with the frightening, horrifying numbers coming out should maybe can blend into some kind of new future or will just be in the same sort of lock down that we've seen over the last few years.

GLORIA PENNER: So finally, Alisa, will this be sort of a top down approach with Jerry Brown handing directives to the legislature in his departments? Or is he going to depend on the people and interest groups to come up with the solution.

BARBA: Well, I think -- I think he's gonna come up with some solutions himself. There's some really interesting public outside of government groups that are trying to come up with solutions to California's crisis. There's this group called think long, which is funded by this multimillionaire, billionaire, Nicholas Berggruen? Is that how you say it? He's an investor and he's pledged $20 million to try and help reform California politics. So there are some interesting groups on the outside coming in.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, we will watch that, and we will watch and see what Jerry Brown does. I want to thank our editors today, Ricky young, Scott Lewis, Alisa Joyce Barba, and I want to tell you, we're not gonna have a show next Friday, Christmas eve. But we will be back on December 31st for a wrap up of the year, we hope you'll join us then. Meanwhile, happy holidays to you from all of us. This has been the Editors Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.