Key Takeaways: California Gov. Jerry Brown's Final State Of The State

Jan 26, 2018

Thursday marked California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's 16th and final State of the State Address. The 30-minute speech celebrated the governor's success at improving the state's economy over the past seven years, but it also laid out an agenda that focused on climate change and infrastructure repair.

KUNR's Danna O'Connor sat down with our political reporter, Paul Boger, to find out more about the speech.


Credit Kevin Bass

So, what were some of the major takeaways from Brown's speech?



Well, Governor Brown is notoriously concise and unsentimental in his State of the State Address, and today was no different.



Over the course of the 30-minute speech, Brown mainly focused on the difference in California's economic and financial stability from when he took office in 2011 and today.


Credit Kevin Bass

When Brown took office, California was facing roughly $30 billion in budget deficits. This year, the state is sitting on top of a $6 billion surplus and record low unemployment for which Brown thanked both Republicans and Democrats for working together, while at the same time taking a not so subtle swipe at Congress.



"All of these programs are big and important to our future, and their passage demonstrates that some American governments can get stuff done, even in the face of deepening partisan division," said Brown.

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But not everyone has been impressed with the way in which California got to that point. Democrats have criticized Brown for being notoriously frugal, often threatening budget cuts across state government. Republicans have blamed Brown for higher taxes, most notably the recent increase in the state's gas tax to help pay for infrastructure projects across the state. They are hoping to repeal the tax with a ballot measure; Brown is hoping Democrats, and his successor prevent that from happening.



Speaking of infrastructure, did Brown discuss his support for the controversial high-speed rail between LA and San Francisco, as well as the Twin Tunnels project?



He did, briefly, and what he had to say was no surprise, Brown has been unequivocal in his support for the bullet train between LA and San Francisco, despite construction delays and cost overruns. It was recently announced that the bullet train is another three billion dollars over budget.

Credit Kevin Bass



There's also the twin tunnels project, which would take water from Northern California and the mountains and re-route it to drought-stricken Southern California.



Here's the thing, both projects have been derided by critics. They've been called expensive, unneeded and environmentally unsound, but Brown says the two projects are the way to go.


"I'm convinced it will conserve water, protect the fish and habitat in the delta and ensure the delivery of badly needed water to the millions of people who depend on California's aqueducts," Brown said.



What about the natural disasters that have hit the state over the past six months, the wildfires and mudslides?



You know, that's interesting because while he did talk about those disasters, he tied them into another major focus of his speech. 


"We should never forget our dependence on the natural environment and the fundamental challenges it represents to the way we live. We can't fight nature; we have to learn how to get along with her."



So, clearly, the governor has linked the devastating wildfires in wine country and Southern California with climate change, and I think that's also where he sees the most room for growth.



The governor mentioned protecting forests as a way to combat CO2 emissions, as well as hinting that he may soon submit a plan to spend some of the money the state collects from its cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That money could go on to pay for further conservation efforts or to make the state's fleet of vehicles more environmentally friendly.



But Brown also says these efforts are facing a major challenge: President Donald Trump.



"The science of climate change is not in doubt. The National Academies of Science of every major country in the world, including Russia and China, have all endorsed the mainstream view that human-caused greenhouse gasses are trapping heat in the oceans and in the atmosphere and that action must be taken to advert catastrophic changes in our weather systems. All nations agree, except one, and that is solely because of one man, our current president."



But yet, Republicans in the legislature worry the costs of governor's agenda will continue to passed down to California's families and small businesses. With one Republican referring to the Brown's second tenure as governor as death by a thousand cuts.