Gov. Jerry Brown did a good job laying out the California's stark choices in his State of the State Speech on Wednesday.
We can move ahead, or we can continue to let the Golden State rust away.
There are a variety of arguments available to debate those choices. And then there are the realities.
California is in decline. You don't have to be Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, to see that. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our schools are faltering. Our social safety net has more holes than netting. The state that once impressed the world with its ability to get things done now can barely get out of its own way.
On Wednesday, Jerry Brown at times sounded like his father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown. As governor from 1959-1967, the elder Brown presided over the Golden Years of the Golden State, years that brought the development of the California Aqueduct and the huge expansion of the state's colleges and universities.
Brown the Younger (age 73) refuses to believe that California is done doing great things. Rather than curling up in a fetal position and waiting for the end to come, he wants California to rise up. He proposes massive investment in water projects and education, renewable energy and transportation – including the much-maligned California High-Speed Rail project.
“Those who believe that California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking,” Brown said in his speech. “I understand that feeling but I don't share it. Because I know this state and the spirit of the people who choose to live here.”
There are, of course, many Californians who don't share the “spirit” to which Brown refers. Take the Republicans in the state Legislature, for example. Despite that Brown has cut billions in state spending – reducing the budget shortfall from $26 billion to $9 billion in the past year – and despite that he is proposing further cuts this year, the Republicans refuse not only to consider modestly increasing taxes, but they also refuse to approve an election to let the voters decide on proposed tax increases.