Gov. Brown’s speech evokes praise, trepidation among lawmakers

Gov. Jerry Brown, center, is greeted by lawmakers on the floor of the state Assembly before his inauguration at the state Capitol on Monday.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

State lawmakers reacted to Gov. Jerry Brown’s inaugural address with praise and trepidation Monday and, in a reflection of the political dynamic in California, that was just among the governor’s fellow Democrats.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) said he was most excited by Brown’s ambitious new proposal for further reductions to carbon emissions and goal to have 50% of the power used in California supplied by renewable energy sources by 2030.

“I thought it was a great speech,” De Leon told reporters afterward. “There was a lot in the speech that I agreed with regards to climate change and moving policy.”

But the governor’s climate change proposals were greeted with muted approval by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, a moderate Fresno Democrat, who has opposed some of the state’s current carbon reducing policies.


“It’s a good aspirational goal but I think the devil is in the details,” Perea said. “What I really picked up on is the governor’s comments on making our climate change goals work within the boundaries of our economy. That’s really where we need to work on.”

Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said she was more surprised with what Brown’s speech lacked – any major emphasis on addressing the state’s high poverty rate.

“Once again, another State of the State speech and I am deeply disappointed,” Mitchell said. “If I was a mother living below the poverty line trying to raise my kids in the great innovative state of California, I would take heed that the leader of my state doesn’t acknowledge my existence and my struggle. It’s offensive.”

Democrats hold a strong majority in the state Senate and Assembly, as well as every statewide office, creating political dominance that has enhanced fractures within the party between liberals and moderates, and those representing urban, suburban and rural areas of the state.


Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), often mindful of the sometimes frayed stitching that holds Democrats together, said she looks forward to working with the governor on expanding access to healthcare, improving the state’s infrastructure and other needs while at the same time keeping the state’s books in balance. But she spoke of other priorities that would also be part of the discussion.

“I agree wholeheartedly with him that we need to make sure that expansions of programs be done the right way,’’ Atkins said.

Atkins said there will be a “good discussion” with the governor on Medi-Cal expansion and restoring some health and human service programs: “Not all Californians have come back from the recession.”

Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto said she was “disappointed” that the governor did not say more about improving the state’s economy and creating more jobs, which GOP members have argued would provide greater opportunities for Californians most in need.


“I am disappointed that now here in his fifth year, Gov. Brown still has not put forward a comprehensive plan, a strategic plan for economic growth,” Olsen told reporters.

Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who came to Sacramento to attend Brown’s inauguration, said the governor’s address was “an amazing nod to history--the history of this state, first and foremost, but also his place in it.”

“This is a genuine governor because he doesn’t use soaring rhetoric, although for him, some of these lines were poetic,” Garcetti said.