Gov. Brown To Lay Out Vision In Last State Of State
Gov. Jerry Brown will look back on his four terms as California's governor and lay out his vision for what's to come Thursday in his final State of the State address as leader of the nation's most populous state.
It will be the 16th such address for the 79-year-old Brown, who served two terms as governor starting in 1975 and returned for two more in 2011. Brown, the son of former governor Pat Brown, is termed out of office after the November election.
Brown has frequently used his annual address to the Legislature to highlight California as the nation's beacon of opportunity and hope but also warn of its past economic woes and the financial pitfalls that may loom ahead.
"We must prepare for uncertain times and reaffirm the basic principles that have made California the Great Exception that it is," he declared in 2017 in a speech that girded California for battle against President Donald Trump's administration on immigration, climate change and health care.
The state's spats with Washington haven't abated in the year since. California adopted greater protections for immigrants living in the country illegally and Brown emerged as a de-facto U.S. leader on climate policy, traveling to China and Germany and leading a coalition of states to uphold the nation's carbon reduction goals.
Beyond fights with Washington, Brown is likely to address California's financial state. When he entered office in 2011, California faced a $27 billion budget deficit and an unemployment rate of 12 percent. Things have since turned around, with Brown projecting a $6 billion surplus in this budget. In past addresses, he's frequently highlighted his efforts to reduce prison overcrowding, boost money for the neediest K-12 students and improve the state's economy.
Still, he's consistently warned that California ought to save for future uncertainty rather than spend, a message he's likely to echo Thursday as he sets up the challenges that await his successor.
"What's out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline and recession, so good luck, baby," he declared at his budget press conference in early January.
Challenges still lie ahead for Brown in his final year. Two massive infrastructure projects he's championed — the twin water tunnels and a high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco — are on rocky ground and face public skepticism.
Bullet train executives recently announced the cost of the first leg of the project in the Central Valley has spiked by nearly $3 billion. On the tunnels, meanwhile, Brown's administration recently scaled back the plan to bring water from Northern to Southern California from two tunnels to one. He's mentioned both projects only in passing in his recent annual address but may be looking to shore up public support.
Brown has said his speech will include a plan to spend $1.25 billion generated by California's cap-and-trade program, which puts a cap on carbon emissions and auctions permits to pollute. Sixty percent of the money is directed by law to specific purposes, including the bullet train, but Brown says $1.25 billion is available for lawmakers to spend.
The money is generally used for efforts to combat climate change.
Despite his outsize role in California politics, Brown sharply pushes back at the term legacy.
"Governors don't have legacies," he told reporters bluntly last month.
His last year in office, though, will surely shape it.