PD Editorial: Brown drives 'little engine' to state's future

  • Gov. Jerry Brown gestures as he delivers his State of the State address at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 23, 2013. Brown delivered a State of the State address that laid out the legacy-building ideas he will work on during the second part of his term, including K-12 education reform, high-speed rail and the largest upgrade to the state't water-delivery system in decades. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Gov. Jerry Brown delivered a couple of messages Thursday in his State of the State address.

First came his triumphant declaration that the Golden State has risen from the fiscal ashes:

"California has once again confounded our critics. We have wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget. And, by God, we will persevere and keep it that way for years to come.

"Against those who take pleasure, singing of our demise, California did the impossible."

Brown drew on California's history and invoked the Bible and Irish poet William Butler Yeats to map out a vision of the state's future. But interwoven with his boasts that "California is back" were notes of caution. He never said the words "era of limits," but that phrase from his 1976 address echoed in Thursday's speech.

Brown stressed fiscal discipline, urging lawmakers to resist the temptation to quickly restore programs cut during the recession. He warned that a spending spree, however popular with constituent groups, would only set the stage for renewed cuts if the economy hits a bump or when Proposition 30's temporary tax increases expire.

"That is not progress; it is not even progressive. It is illusion," he said. "That stop and go, boom and bust, serves no one. We are not going back there."

Brown also renewed his call on legislators to cut back on the scores of new laws they draft each year.

"Constantly expanding the coercive power of government by adding each year so many minute prescriptions to our already detailed and turgid legal system overshadows other aspects of public service," he told a joint session of the Senate and Assembly.

But governors use state of the state addresses to set agendas, to push big ideas, and Brown's speech was no exception:

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