Politics

California State of the State 2015: Brown sworn in for record 4th term

Jerry Brown speaks at the inaugural for his fourth and final term on Monday, January 5, 2014.
Jerry Brown speaks at the inaugural for his fourth and final term on Monday, January 5, 2014.
File photo by Andrew Nixon/ Capital Public Radio
Jerry Brown speaks at the inaugural for his fourth and final term on Monday, January 5, 2014.
Jerry Brown speaks at the inaugural for his fourth and final term on Monday, January 5, 2014.
Andrew Nixon/ Capital Public Radio
Jerry Brown speaks at the inaugural for his fourth and final term on Monday, January 5, 2014.
Jerry Brown speaks at the inaugural for his fourth and final term on Monday, January 5, 2014.
Andrew Nixon/ Capital Public Radio


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Inaugural address: Text | Audio

Jerry Brown made history Monday when he was sworn in for his fourth term as governor of California, cautioning that the state is positioned for a bright future if it can live within its means.

The 76-year-old Democrat told the audience at his inauguration that California is at a crossroads.

"With big and important new programs now launched and the budget carefully balanced, the challenge is to build for the future, not steal from it," he said.

Brown recalled his father's first inauguration in 1959 and said many issues that Gov. Pat Brown raised haven't gone away, including discrimination; quality of education and the challenge of recruiting and training teachers; air pollution and its danger to health; and a realistic water program.

Jerry Brown called for state employees to help start prefunding retiree health obligations. He also urged Republicans and Democrats to tackle the state's infrastructure needs and implement education, health care and public safety reforms.

The governor also challenged the state, already a leader with far-reaching environmental laws, to set new goals for 2030 and beyond.

In the next 15 years, he proposed the state increase renewable electricity sources from one-third to 50 percent, reduce petroleum use in vehicles by 50 percent, and double the efficiency of existing buildings.

"We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being," he said.

The new goals are on top of climate change targets the state is already working toward. By 2020, California is supposed to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. The state must also get a third of its electricity from renewable sources.

“We’re in pretty good shape to meet those targets," said Prof. Ann Carlson, who focuses on environmental issues at the UCLA School of Law.

Carlson thinks Brown's new renewable energy goal is feasible, but the petroleum cut is a different story.

“That, in my view, is a very aggressive and pretty difficult goal to meet," Carlson told KPCC. "It’s also one, though, we’re going to have to figure out in order to reduce our carbon emissions to a level that is going to keep the planet from overheating.”

It would also go a long way to helping California meet an even more ambitious goal by 2050: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels.

Brown's final inauguration was held in the Assembly chamber at the state Capitol.

His wife, Anne Gust Brown, introduced her husband at the inauguration, saying his expansive mind and committed heart make him an ideal leader.

"He's someone that we know will enthusiastically and creatively forge a new and bold future for us," she said. "And yet, he will do so grounded enough in wisdom of the past that we won't drive off a cliff."

Jerry Brown served as governor from 1975 to 1983 before term limits were implemented and returned for another term in 2011. He defeated Republican challenger Neel Kashkari in a landslide re-election victory in November.

A private reception will be held Monday evening at the California Railroad Museum, funded by private donations left over from his previous inauguration, for which he spent just $75,000. The governor's staff expects he will spend a similar amount this time.

Brown's push for a $68 billion rail project remains controversial even as the California High-Speed Rail Authority commemorates the start of construction for the nation's first high-speed train system at a ceremonial groundbreaking in Fresno. Brown is scheduled to attend the ceremony Tuesday.

After receiving initial federal funding, the project faces a blackout from the Republican-dominated House of Representatives but Brown has secured a source of ongoing state funds from the state's cap-and-trade pollution fees.

On Friday, Brown will release his budget proposal for the coming year, with major decisions expected on higher education funding and likely using a record influx of tax revenue to pay down debt service and retirement obligations.

Brown hasn't revealed how he'll handle recent tensions with the University of California Board of Regents, which approved tuition increases as much as 5 percent each of the next five years unless the state approves more money for the 10-campus system.

Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, said she was disappointed that in his fifth year as governor, Brown had not yet put forward a plan to spur economic growth in California or to ensure schools are preparing students for a 21st century economy.

Olsen said Assembly Republicans are willing to work across party lines with Brown on improving the state's fiscal health, including targeting growing retiree health care costs and implementing a bipartisan rainy day fund. She said those goals should be accomplished without overburdening taxpayers and without raising college tuition.

To date, Brown and Republican Earl Warren are the only California governors to serve three terms. Warren was elected to his third term in 1951 and resigned in 1953 to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Brown's father, Pat Brown, ran for a third term but was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1966.

Jerry Brown's 2015 Inaugural Address

Annotating the governor's address

Reporters from KPCC, KQED and Capital Public Radio added their thoughts on the governor's 2015 speech.

Audio: The State of the State/ Inaugural Address