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California Gov. Jerry Brown Calls For Fiscal Discipline In State Of The State Address

Andrew Nixon
Capital Public Radio
California Governor Jerry Brown

In his record 14th State of the State address, California Gov. Jerry Brown urged continued fiscal restraint and warned of a pending economic slowdown that could stunt the state’s recovery from the Great Recession.

In his speech at the state Capitol Thursday morning, the four-term governor called for preparation for a slowdown, increasing the state’s voter-approved Rainy Day Fund and continuing to pay down debts.

“We live today in a world that is profoundly uncertain. What happens far away can touch us very directly,” Brown said, noting that turmoil in financial markets in China and the Middle East can cause great harm in California. “That’s why we have to be prepared and vigilant.”

Brown laid out other priorities including fighting climate change and income inequality; increasing education spending; raising new revenue to repair the state’s crumbling infrastructure; ensuring the state is prepared for long-term future droughts; and paying for a huge set of unfunded liabilities, including state employee pension costs.

Brown’s speech comes amid higher state revenue projections, driven largely by growing income tax revenue. Those increases have added billions of dollars to the state coffers in recent years, more than the Brown Administration had anticipated.

Since his return to the Capitol in 2011, Brown has repeatedly urged saving, reminding lawmakers of the multi-billion shortfalls the state experienced during the Great Recession. He has the current growing and relatively stable economy could falter at any time, leaving the state without the means to pay for critical services unless it saves now.

“I don’t want to make those mistakes again,” Brown said.

Brown, 77, previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983. He was elected to a third term in 2010 and re-elected again in 2014.

The governor has enjoyed favorable job approval ratings from voters during his recent terms, including a 56 percent favorable rating in a poll released this month. Brown’s clashed, however, with some progressive Democrats in the Legislature who say he hasn’t done enough to restore social services funding following budget cuts several years ago. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have generally praised Brown’s focus on savings but opposed his efforts to raise new revenue for transportation repairs and to close a looming $1 billion shortfall in the state’s Medi-Cal budget.