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Governor's State of the State - Consolidate Gains, Tackle Problems One at a Time

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January 7, 2015

State of the State Speech Combined with Inaugural

In the low-key approach that characterizes his second round in office, Governor Jerry Brown combined his Inauguration to a fourth term with his State of the State speech during a joint session of the California legislature on Monday.

Perhaps anticipating this term will cap his public service career, Governor Brown, 76, spent much of the speech talking about consolidating the improvements in the State’s financial affairs which have occurred since 2011 when he began his third term.

He stipulated that the state still has a way to go but he credited the temporary tax increase approved by voters last November (which he championed), an improving economy and a bipartisan legislative effort as the main reasons for the improvement.

While touting lower unemployment, paying down indebtedness and increased enrollment in Medi-Cal, however, he did not mention the much more dubious statistics that California still ranks as the third worst state in the Union for unemployment and the worst in some definitions of poverty as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.

He spent the bulk of his speech on education, criminal justice and the environment. Unfortunately, he touched only briefly on health and human services programs which have seen extraordinary reductions since the Great Recession of 2008 threatening families and children.  

Saying that the problems faced by his father Pat Brown when he was Governor (1959-67) are still the challenges faced by California, he advised “we must dedicate ourselves to making what we have done work, to seeing that the massive changes in education, health care and public safety are actually carried out and endure. The financial promises we have already made must be confronted honestly so that they are properly funded. The health of our state depends on it.”

Some of what the Governor discussed included:

  • Schools will receive a substantial boost in funding because of Prop 98, an initiative approved by the voters in 1988, but he urged greater attention to local funding efforts and teachers. The California Catholic Conferences supports access to a high quality education for all students. See our Education Issue Brief page.
  • He called for continued reform in the criminal justice system and attention to the state’s correctional system. Portions of the state’s prison remain under the order of the Federal court but voters changed some sentencing guidelines with Prop 47 last year. More can be found on our Restorative Justice page.
  • Environmental issues were a major topic of his address. The Governor called for an increase in the amount of energy California generates from renewable sources from 33 percent to 50 percent. Pope Francis will be release an encyclical on human ecology and the environment in the spring. See our Care for Creation page.
  • Brown pointed to measures the state has taken to improve conditions for immigrants, including the issuance of long-awaited driver's licenses,

Finally, Governor Brown listed some of the major financial liabilities facing the state, including the cost of pensions and retiree health care, new obligations under the Affordable Care Act, obligations arising from an aging population, bonded indebtedness and infrastructure. He vowed to tackle them one at a time, starting with health benefits for retirees.

You can read the full text of the speech at the Governor’s website.