WASHINGTON--As Washington tries to find a way past the political dysfunction that triggered the shutdown of the federal government, Gov. Jerry Brown came to town Thursday to suggest it look for inspiration in California.
Brown told a ballroom of liberals celebrating the anniversary of the Center for American Progress, one of the left's favorite think tanks, that it was only a few years ago California had been written off by the pundits as a lost cause.
"Three years ago California was called a failed state," he said. "They were virtually chortling in the conservative venues."
Brown credited California's turnaround to a series of ballot measures. The measures allowed a state budget to get passed with a simple majority of lawmakers, put an independent commission in charge of voting boundaries, and raised taxes by billions of dollars.
"The people themselves through the initiative actually broke a decade of dysfunction and laid the foundation for a government that works," he said.
Then the governor went down the laundry list of Democratic legislation he has signed, delighting a crowd that is frustrated by its inability to move forward on Capitol Hill with its agenda on global warming, immigration, education and other policy issues.
"We didn't wait for the federal government," he said.
Brown acknowledged some of the struggles his administration has faced. He lamented the many deep cuts in programs lawmakers had to make over the last several years to keep the state solvent. And he called the situation in California prisons "another mess, but far less of a mess than it had been in years before." Brown said reducing overcrowding in prisons is one of the greatest political challenges any officeholder can face.
"Reducing the number of felons in prisons is not something you can get up and beat your chest about," he said. "There are very few people who say, if I am elected, you will have thousands of felons in your neighborhood. But, it is happening in California."