Governor Jerry Brown sounded the budget alarm bells, and called on the legislature to put the question of taxes to the voters. He was funny and postmodern in commenting on his own speech–and to reaction to it–throughout.
The main point was to make the case to put his budget–and the tax extensions in it–to a vote of the people:
Let me read to you, Article 2, Section 1 of the California Constitution:
“All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require.”
When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people. In the ordinary course of things, matters of state concern are properly handled in Sacramento. But when the elected representatives find themselves bogged down by deep differences which divide them, the only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance. It is time for a legislative check-in with the people of California.
At this moment of extreme difficulty, it behooves us to turn to the people and get a clear mandate on how we should proceed: either to extend the taxes as I fervently believe or cut deeply into the programs from which–under federal law–we can still extract the sums required. Unfortunately, these would most probably include: elementary, middle and high schools, the University of California, the California State University system, prisons and local public safety funding, and vital health programs.
My plan to rebuild California requires a vote of the people, and frankly I believe it would be irresponsible for us to exclude the people from this process. They have a right to vote on this plan. This state belongs to all of us, not just those of us in this chamber. Given the unique nature of the crisis and the serious impact our decisions will have on millions of Californians, the voters deserve to be heard.
Do I like the choices we face? No. I don’t. But after serious study of the options left us by a $25 billion deficit, the budget I have proposed is the best I can devise. If any of you have other suggestions that you think are better, please, share them with us. After all, we are in this together.
Much has been written about the 14 minute speech. But in tough times, it was good to get a little but of optimism at the end:
Wherever I look, I see difficult choices. But I also see a bright future up ahead and a California economy that is on the mend. When we get our budget in balance, California will be in a strong position to take advantage of its many assets and its strategic location on the Pacific Rim. As the countries of Asia and south of our border continue to thrive and expand their trade, our state will play a leading role, as it always has, and reap unimagined benefits.
We have the inventors, the dreamers, the entrepreneurs, the venture capitalists and a vast array of physical, intellectual and political assets. We have been called the great exception because for generations Californians have defied the odds and the conventional wisdom and prospered in totally unexpected ways. People keep coming here because of the dream that is still California, and once here, their determination and boundless energy feeds that dream and makes it grow.
When I first came to Sacramento, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had not yet invented their personal computer. There was no wind generated electricity, and we didn’t have the nation’s most advanced building and appliance efficiency standards as we later adopted. Of course, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Twitter did not exist—not even in someone’s imagination.
California’s economy has grown from less than 200 billion dollars when first I came to this rostrum to now over two trillion dollars expected this year. California has been on the move—a marvel, even a miracle and some kind of gift.