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California Governor Jerry Brown (C) waves to the crowd before delivering the State of the State address as Speaker of the Assembly John Perez (L) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (R) look on at the California State Capitol on January 31, 2011 in Sacramento, California.
Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State Address Wednesday morning in Sacramento. The governor’s expected to set an ambitious agenda that includes major investments in infrastructure.
Brown’s apparent challenge is to rally support for his agenda at the same time he’s asking voters to raise their own taxes.
The State of the State is the governor’s first and best opportunity to rank his priorities and make a case for them to the Legislature and the voters before he gets into the nitty-gritty of balancing a state budget, said Dan Schnur, head of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
"State of the states are high-minded and visionary, budgets are road maps," Schnur said. "Particularly in difficult economic times, State of the States tend to be much more optimistic, and budget discussions tend to be a cold dose of reality."
Schnur was the spokesman for former governor Pete Wilson, and he’s worked on four Republican presidential campaigns. He says politicians usually lead with optimism and follow with cold doses of reality. For the second year in a row, he says, the governor's reversed that order — as Brown did in a recent news conference.
"We’re in a box in the State of California," Brown said. "We have more needs, desires and demands than the money available. So we now have to reduce needs, reduce demands, reduce desires."
Brown released a budget earlier this month that cuts a billion dollars from California’s welfare-to-work program and slashes low-cost health insurance for lower income families and state-subsidized childcare. Brown warned that unless California voters pass a temporary tax hike in November, public education will take a $4 billion hit.
Schnur noted that "One reason that the governor may have led with his budget address and followed with the state of the state, instead of the other way around, is that his policy priorities this year are so dependent on the passage of both the state budget through the Legislature and the passage of his proposed ballot initiative with the voters in the fall."
The way to win over voters is to show them just how dire the situation would be if they don’t vote for the taxes, Schnur said. He said Brown’s made the right first step on that front. Now, he added, the governor needs to give voters something to hope for.
Brown’s press secretary Gil Duran expects that the governor will urge Californians to forge ahead with multi-billion dollar investments in high-speed rail and other infrastructure that he believes will keep the state competitive.