SKELTON: High marks for Jerry Brown

  • Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his proposed tax initiative during his appearance at the 87th Annual Sacramento Host Breakfast in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Brown wants voters to approve temporary increases in the state sales and income taxes as part of what he described as a series of step to help California recover from the recession without deeper cuts to education and social services.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The year shouldn't slip by without giving Gov. Jerry Brown his annual report card.

And that's tough. Not the grading: He obviously deserves high marks if the yardstick is effectiveness. And that's my yardstick.

The only decision is whether to give him a B-plus, an A-minus or a full A.

The tough part is acknowledging that Brown, who regards himself as the smartest man in the room and tends to let people know it, usually is. Certainly he was in 2012.

This was the year Brown delivered what he was selling when he ran for election in 2010: political know-how, inherited from his father Pat Brown's genes and developed over decades of trial and error; the governor uniquely qualified by experience and wisdom to clean up Sacramento's fiscal mess.

"The knowledge and the know-how to get California working again," he had proclaimed. "That's what I offer."

Largely because of Brown, Sacramento is approaching solvency after several years of deficit chaos and sharp spending cuts.

The numbers change every week. But essentially Brown entered office facing a $26 billion deficit. It was halved to $13 billion by the end of 2011 and recently was projected by the nonpartisan legislative analyst to be a relatively minor $1.9 billion for the next budget year.

Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature cut a ton, mainly in programs for poor people. University students also got whacked

But Brown's biggest test was winning voter approval of a tax increase, the first accepted by the California electorate since 2004.

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