Commentary

01/05/2015  by Ed Coghlan

Governor Brown: Once More with Gusto?

California Governor Jerry Brown was sworn in for his fourth term today---the most ever in the Golden State.

CA Fwd congratulates the Governor for this remarkable achievement. He now has the unique distinction of being the youngest and the oldest man ever elected governor of California. 

Known for his boundless energy, it doesn’t sound like Gov. Brown will be sitting around resting on his laurels. It’s a good thing because as he said, despite how far we’ve come in the past four years, there’s still work to do.

Ever the teacher, he reminded us that California’s budget is “precariously” balanced—although that’s much better than the mess he inherited four years ago. We agree that there is still work to do to enact the fiscal reforms necessary to secure California’s future. 

CA Fwd CEO Jim Mayer said as much today:

CA Fwd agrees with the Governor that a stronger foundation for a better California has been established. The state government is living within its means and thanks to recent voter action resulting in political and fiscal reforms, increased bipartisanship and a rebounding economy--California will continue this path towards prosperity. Investing in infrastructure, aligning California's workforce with jobs of the 21st century and implementing more local control in public safety and education are key issues to further strengthen that foundation.

This infrastructure issue has been of great interest to CA Fwd for many years, but especially since we co-founded the California Economic Summit in 2012. Region by region, Californians told us that the state’s infrastructure was not up to standards and that it was critically important that we get it fixed.

The Governor’s indication that he’s looking for a bi-partisan solution to the $59 billion in deferred infrastructure is positive. We also need to figure out a way to pay for new infrastructure that more efficiently supports California’s growing population. 

There’s been some progress. The state’s new Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (which Ca Fwd and the California Economic Summit enthusiastically supported) give local government a new tool to leverage state funds to finance essential projects, like streets, highways and affordable housing. 

We are interested to hear more details when Gov. Brown releases his budget this Friday (January 9).

Another area we were happy to hear the governor address was implementation of more local control, particularly in the areas of education and public safety. We strongly endorse the Governor’s focus on successfully implementing those tectonic governance reforms.

We believe better decisions are made when they are made closer to the people they affect. 

Not all California schools districts are the same. Entrusting more decisions to local officials can increase student success and ultimately benefit all Californians. Empowering local school districts and county offices of education to determine programs that will most benefit students makes sense. CA Fwd and the California School Boards Association are partnering to help schools districts learn from each other to improve student performance and, as importantly, create a culture of continuous improvement.

Prison reform is a fiscal and social imperative in California, and has been for a long time (The Governor took time to point out his own father, Governor Pat Brown, was talking sentence reform back at his 1959 inauguration). Gov. Brown’s ambition for county officials to develop more efficient, effective and even compassionate responses to crime is well founded. It will take hard work to develop data-driven programs. 

CA Fwd will intensify its work in 2015 with both school districts and with counties to help make sure that local control is effective, smart and efficient.

CA Fwd and its Economic Summit partners have documented that importance of aligning workforce development infrastructure with the jobs of the 21st century. 

We applaud the governor’s call for the educational systems to coordinate and cooperate so that young Californians can efficiently receive the skills, knowledge and abilities to pursue their dreams. The Governor is right, that the state’s higher education system is rich and diverse.  In addition to innovation, CA Fwd accepts the governor’s challenge to find ways to adequately invest in higher education without further increasing the financial burden on students.

CA Fwd looks forward to the budget release and will be sharing our thoughts on it with you. 

Photo by Alan Light, 1978

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