Governor Jerry Brown gave his State of the State address today, his 16th and the final of his tenure as governor of the Golden State.
In his roughly 30-minute speech, Governor Brown celebrated much of his wins while in office and touched on the state of healthcare, education, and California’s prison system and environment. He also spent a significant amount of time defending the Delta water tunnels plan and high-speed rail in the State.
“As the climate changes and more water arrives as rain instead of snow, it’s crucial that we are able to capture some of the overflow in a timely and responsible way. That, along with water recycling and recapture will put us in the best position to use water wisely and in the most efficient manner possible. ”
Brown also spoke of the “not easy, but essential” vote to raise taxes on gasoline in the state to help it’s aging infrastructure system and $67 billion in deferred maintenance costs.
“Tens of millions of cars and trucks travel over 330 billion miles a year; the sun’s only 93 million miles away,” he said. “The funds are absolutely necessary if we are going to maintain our roads in good repair.”
The governor spent a significant amount of time defending the state’s high-speed rail project, which has received intense criticism for being over budget, behind schedule and consistent leadership turnover.
“I make no bones about it, I like trains and I like high-speed trains even better and so did the voters in 2008 when they approved the bond,” he said.
He referenced several large-scale state infrastructure projects that were over schedule and over budget during construction, including the Bay Area Bridge that took “20 years to build and was over budget by $6 billion. That happens but not with high-speed rail,” he said.
“But build it they did [the other projects referenced] and build it we will,” he said in order to meet the state’s growing infrastructure needs.
As far as education in the State, Gov. Brown laid out a plan to create a California online college for students already in the work force.
“We will bring it right to their homes so they can get ahead like everyone else,” he said.
The Governor praised spending surges in education, which have increased $46 per student in the state and $30 billion overall, as well as a new budget formula so that, “the most disadvantaged districts will get more, not just equal funding.”
He also touted the State’s $5.8 billion annual increase in funding for higher education since 2011. “That’s not chump change,” Gov. Brown said.
The Governor spent a few minutes discussing healthcare the Affordable Care Act, which enrolled over 6 million Californians into a healthcare plan.
“These are far-reaching moves that are largely depended on federal dollars that would have been taken away by the Congress if the effort to repeal and replace had succeeded,” he said.
“In 1965, the California penal code had about 234,00 words, today that number has grown to 1.2 million,” he said. “By comparison, the Ten Commandments run just under 300 words, and the Ten Commandments? There are still ten.”
The Legislature has enacted endless numerous new crime laws and the voters have approved ballot measures increasing prison systems. He implored consideration of a new system focused on mental health treatment and training programs as well as hope.
“When a human being receives a 20 or 40-year sentence as tens of thousands do, incentives to reform weaken and hopelessness and violence take over,” he said.
He applauded earlier parole and milestone credits for those who are reformed and praised law enforcement, asking for respect and support of those who work in the prison system.
The Governor also congratulated the assembled Legislature on legislation including pension reform, lowering the threshold for passing a state budget, and cap and trade.
The State of the State speech ended with a plea for courage, imagination, and dialogue to combat “the immediate and genuine threats to our world, our way of life and our system of governance.”