North Coast lawmakers responded cautiously to Gov. Jerry Brown's state of the state address Wednesday -#8212; perhaps in part because the governor holds the fate of their legislation in his hands. The legislators, all Democrats, said they backed Brown's call for fiscal prudence.
The governor in his speech to a joint session of the Legislature offered a blend of optimism for the state's economic recovery, caution for the budget, concern for the drought and a plea that the state and counties work together to restructure California's prison system. He noted that the budget emergency has been largely resolved, for now.
"A lot of people thought it was ho-hum, but I'm grateful for a state of the state that is a little bit quieter," said state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, referring to the litany of fiscal woes, exacerbated by the recession, that have plagued the state in recent years.
Evans said the speech reflected a transition, "a kind of pivot from focusing on the constant fiscal emergencies to what the future holds. It was really clear from his speech that he thinks the hard work of stabilizing the budget has been done and now it's time to start out to turn our attention to infrastructure ... and climate change."
Brown's themes of caution and prudence resonated with others, as well.
"This is my fourteenth and final state of the state address as a member of the Legislature, delivered by three different governors. I am thankful that in my final year at the Capitol we have a budget that is good news for the state," Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, said in a statement.
"Governor Brown's speech this morning is the most optimistic address I've heard from a governor for California's future," he said. "We should choose wisely what we spend money on. And it is vital, as the governor emphasized, that we create a rainy day fund as a hedge against future budget volatility and boom-and-bust cycles."
Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, issued a statement approving the governor's message "that California must remain on a path of fiscal discipline, and (I) share his desire to pay down our debt and build our surplus."
But Wolk, the author of a $6.47 billion water infrastructure bond now before lawmakers, said she also shared the "governor's concern regarding the drought and the importance of taking immediate steps as well as investing in long-term strategies to better manage future droughts, which may be more frequent as a result of climate change."
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Santa Rosa, agreed.
"California's unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in more than five years," Levine said in a statement. "We have clearly turned a corner and are enjoying a comeback."
Levine, like Brown, noted that the budget stemmed from voters' approval of legislative rules making it easier to pass a budget and their approval of temporary income and sales taxes to help balance the books.
"Last year, we adopted a responsible budget that paid down our wall of debt and invested in our future. We also passed important laws protecting California working families and we made strides in expanding environmental protections," he said.
For Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, the importance of Brown's address was the mix of spending and restraint.
Brown "delivered a message of tempered optimism, acknowledging the painful sacrifices that have led to our current budget surplus," she said in a statement.