Governor Jerry Brown pushes tax increase, greater infrastructure investment in State of the State

California Governor

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Gov. Jerry Brown deliver his State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. Brown urged lawmakers to help make California great again by taking on major initiatives and funding schools.

In Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address, he urged support for investments in high-speed rail and the state’s water supply, along with a temporary tax hike to prevent deep cuts to public education. Brown said “California’s on the mend” and is ready to take on new challenges.

Brown declared that critics who predict California’s collapse have it all wrong.

"Yes, it is fair to say that California is turbulent, less predictable and, well... different," he told his Sacramento audience. "Yet, look at the facts."

It’s true, he said, that after the mortgage bubble burst, California lost a million jobs. But although the state’s recovery’s been slower than after the last six national recessions, Brown noted that last year personal income grew by $100 billion, and California added 230,000 jobs. Brown said those aren’t the signs of a state in decline.

He urged Californians to seize the opportunity and launch the high-speed rail network voters approved to whisk passengers from San Diego to San Francisco. Brown said Californians can handle it.

"California is still the Gold Mountain that Chinese immigrants in 1848 came across the Pacific to find," he said. "The wealth is different, derived as it is not from mining the Sierras, but from the creative imagination of those who invent and build and generate the ideas that drive our economy forward."

Brown said he’ll need some help to achieve his vision for California. To balance the state budget, he asked the Legislature to enact more than a billion dollars in cuts to health and welfare programs. He asked voters to pass a temporary tax initiative this November that he said would prevent a $4 billion cut to public schools.

"The cuts are not ones I like, but the situation demands them," Brown said. "As for the initiative, it is fair. It is temporary. It is half of what people were paying in 2010."

After the governor’s speech, state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff said he agreed with Brown’s assessment that California’s economy is recovering.

"So why in the world would anybody, even if they wanted to give the governor more taxes, give him five years worth of taxes at $35 billion?" Huff asked.

The Diamond Bar Republican said a tax hike is the wrong policy to push.

"So we’ve got more people going back to work, revenues are coming back," Huff said. "We can absolutely with our policies defeat that. Or we encourage that and keep going in a way that doesn’t tax people directly into their pocketbooks."

Assembly Speaker John Perez supports the governor’s plan. He called the temporary tax hikes necessary — and he contended that the Legislature’s severe cuts to programs in recent years will lend some credibility to the ballot measure.

"I think that the voters, when they evaluate the governor’s proposals on taxes, are going to ask the question about whether we have been as efficient as we can be with the resources that we’ve had," Perez said. "And clearly if you look at the cuts that we’ve had to make, we’ve gone beyond efficiency and quite frankly leveled cuts that none of us find to be the acceptable route."

The Los Angeles Democrat also backed the plan to launch a California high-speed rail network. He said that given the state’s high unemployment rate and the comparatively low cost of commodities, this is the perfect time to proceed.

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