Governor Brown had something to say to Crazifornia this morning as he kicked off his State of the State speech:
Against those who take pleasure, singing of our demise, California did the impossible.
That would be me – about 300 pages worth of singing of our demise, or at least the increasing probability of our demise.
The impossible, as Brown defined it, is that “We have wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget.” I agree it’s two years since he took office. I’m not at all ready to call the budget solid and enduring, as it is based on a lot of assumptions that still could go sideways.
Brown was quick to give credit to those who had a part in “doing the impossible.”
You, the California legislature, did it. You cast difficult votes to cut billions from the state budget. You curbed prison spending through an historic realignment and you reformed and reduced the state’s long term pension liabilities.
That’s a pretty impossible characterization of what the state did. Pushing prison expenses off to counties instead of addressing the root causes isn’t fixing anything, and it’s certainly not heroic. It just transfer to pain to counties that can’t fight back.
The touted reform and reduction of the state’s long term pension liabilities, while welcomed, was akin to the rate of speed of a great Roman galley when only one oarsman is rowing. Trimming around the edges is not a haircut. Reducing benefits for new hires still saddles us with 30 years of unaffordable liability from the previously hired. (More on this in a minute.)
Then, the citizens of California, using their inherent political power under the Constitution, finished the task. They embraced the new taxes of Proposition 30 by a healthy margin of 55% to 44%.
Yes they did, and now we get to watch the Legislature burn through that money instead of approaching it, to use a favorite word of the Sacramento majority, with sustainability as a goal. And watch tax revenues drop off in the latter years of Prop 30′s seven year life as business owners peel out to other states, taking their taxability with them.
Members of the legislature, I salute you for your courage, for wholeheartedly throwing yourself into the cause.
What else is he going to say to his Democrat super-majorities? Now came the most telling 22 words of the speech:
I salute the unions–their members and their leaders. You showed what ordinary people can do when they are united and organized.
And there you have Jerry Brown. A union guy through and through. A guy who knows who’s buttering his bread. A guy who knows that big, fat public employee unions equal big, fat Democrat election margins.
Things are looking better in California since I wrote the last word of Crazifornia. Unemployment is down. That’s good; we’re all for less human suffering. And tax revenues are up. That’s certainly one way to close a deficit – not my favorite way, but certainly a way.
Still, sorry Jerry! I’m still singing of our demise. I’ll change my tune when taxes go down and California starts treating businesses like assets instead of asses; when the union grip on Sacramento is loosened and we seriously address the $250-$500 billion shortfall in public employee benefit funding by rewriting contracts and reducing benefits for existing employees; and when we have a governor who kills High Speed Rail and stops trying to single-handedly save the world from climate change.
It’s not too much to ask. But in California it is, to use Brown’s words from earlier today, doing the impossible.