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Budget Crisis Likely To Hang Over Gov. Brown’s Speech

Join us at kpbs.org or 89.5 FM for live coverage of Gov. Jerry Brown's State Of The State Address beginning at 5 p.m.

The state’s budget problems, mingled with a dose of optimism. That’s what Gov. Jerry Brown says his State of the State Address may sound like. He gives the talk tonight to a joint session of the state legislature. Some analysts say it’s a critical event for the governor.

California Governor Jerry Brown points to a chart as he speaks to reporters as he announces his proposed budget at the California State Capitol on January 10, 2011 in Sacramento, California.
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Above: California Governor Jerry Brown points to a chart as he speaks to reporters as he announces his proposed budget at the California State Capitol on January 10, 2011 in Sacramento, California.

Gov. Brown admitted to reporters last week he hadn’t started writing the speech yet. But the major focus is sure to be the problem he’s been working on since he was elected: the budget mess. But Brown said he’ll try to include some good news, too:

“There’s a lot of issues, whether it’s reform of schools, whether it’s water, whether it’s energy, whether it’s crime,” said Brown. “Those are things I’m really interested in, but at the same time, if we don’t get this budget fixed, California will flounder.”

“He’s going to sell that theme very hard I think because he has to,” said Leo McElroy, independent political consultant based in Sacramento:

“We’re going to hear a lot of we’ve cut this and cut this, but we’re still going to have to cut that and cut that and it’s gong to have to hurt even more people if we don’t extend the tax rates that were in effect through the beginning of the year,” said McElroy.

Brown’s budget proposal calls for deep cuts to most areas of government. He also wants voters to approve a five-year extension of car, income and sales tax increases that are set to expire. McElroy says the State of the State is his chance to sell that plan to the public and to lawmakers of both parties.

“In a horse-racing sense, he’s going to the spurs here,” added McElroy.

Brown has set the stage for his speech with a number of symbolic cost-cutting initiatives. Those include eliminating cabinet positions and cutting the number of state cell phones and state cars.

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