Republican, Democratic lawmakers divided over Brown speech

California Gov. Jerry Brown, shown at a speech last week, presented an upbeat State of the State address on Wednesday.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO -- Republican lawmakers were critical of the governor’s State of the State address Wednesday, saying it was light on details and sugarcoated economic issues and what they said were policies unfriendly to business.

“When we have a million jobs that have been gained and you have 2 million jobs lost that is not a good number,” said Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. “When we look at ourselves as having one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, we have a long way to go.”

Huff said some of the policies touted by the governor in his speech, including rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise the minimum wage, “are a lot of things that are anti-job-creation.”


Huff noted Brown did not talk a lot about the controversial high-speed rail project.

Assembly GOP Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) said the succinct speech was light on details.

“Maybe he’s leaving himself open for discussion,” Conway said. “I hope so. But it was short and sweet and uplifting from his perspective. It left some of us just wanting more.”

However, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) praised the speech for reminding Californians of how far they have come from the economic recession and of some policy issues the state should take on next.

“I thought it was a clarion call to not forget where California came from over the last five or six years,” Steinberg said. ”The governor wanted to remind us we don’t want to go back to that period. We’ve got too much good ahead of us.”

Steinberg said the speech supported the governor’s budget, which includes repaying debt and building a rainy day fund.

“I think the governor is on the right track,” Steinberg told reporters on the Assembly floor. “But there is also some room to make some smart investments, whether it is preschool for all 4-year-olds, whether it is targeting some restorations in California’s [social service] safety net.”

Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said there were no surprises for him in the governor’s speech, and he echoed Brown’s message of balance.

“The governor is absolutely right. We are in a wonderful spot compared to where we’ve been in the last couple years. … But we need to be thoughtful. We need to distinguish between ongoing revenues, one-time revenues and short-term revenues. That’s why I support and agree with what the governor said today.”

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the head of the Senate Budget Committee, also signaled that the Legislature will seek some changes in the budget proposed by the governor, which he said puts too much of the surplus into paying down debt and building a rainy day fund. “I’m critical of it,” Leno said. “I think a more equitable approach would be a third for each of these pots of investment, reserve and repayment.”

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) also noted the tension in the room between officials wanting to spend more and wanting to be prudent.

“The governor set the tone right off the top that we value change and innovation but that there is a lot to be said for experience and stability,” Padilla said.


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