Gov. Brown pushes for rainy-day fund in appearance before lawmakers

Gov. Jerry Brown made a rare appearance at a legislative hearing on Monday as he urged lawmakers to approve his plan to pay off debt and
save tax revenue to insulate the state from future economic downturns.

"This a great opportunity to exercise restraint on an ongoing basis, to communicate to voters of California that this Legislature is serious about handling their money,'' Brown testified before the Assembly Budget Committee.

"There's nothing complicated about the idea of saving money," the governor added.

Under Brown's proposal, spikes in tax revenue from capital gains would be set aside in a reserve fund or used to pay debts and other long-term costs, such as public pensions.

The hearing was another step in the special session Brown convened to focus attention on his proposed constitutional amendment, and the governor's appearance shows his willingness to place his personal political capital on the line as he pushes the measure.

Although Democrats and Republicans have voiced support for the broad outlines of his plan, Brown faces challenges on both sides of the aisle.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Monday he wanted to see a greater emphasis on funding teacher pensions and restoring money to government services. He’s also warned against rushing the debate over the measure.

"A poorly designed constitutional amendment would be difficult to fix," he said. "It's therefore paramount in my view that we work purposefully, but we don't rush it."

Republicans are looking for tighter controls than Brown has proposed, including tougher rules for when money can be pulled out of the reserve fund.

If approved by the Legislature, Brown's measure would still need to be approved by voters in November.

Brown spoke at Capitol hearings twice in 2011 as he sought a temporary tax hike and changes to public pensions. At that point, it had been almost five decades since a sitting governor had testified before the Legislature.