Brown: recovery depends on fiscal discipline

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Gov. Jerry Brown pointed to California’s recovering economy — as indicated by the state’s first surplus since the Democrat inherited a $20-billion deficit three years ago — as reason for Californians to celebrate. But he cautioned his audience that continued improvement depended upon our state leadership’s ability to exercise fiscal discipline.

Brown predicted that California was not out of the mire, and used Biblical references to support his plan to bank money for whatever treacherous impacts — both natural and manmade — face Californians in the future.

“We will build for the future,” Brown promised. “Not steal from it.”

Brown’s address has been met with mixed reviews. While some share in his optimistic outlook about relief from years of fiscal turmoil, others point to the growing poverty rate as an indication that the state is in trouble. Others point out that this recovery is concentrated in the Bay Area and select coastal cities. One statistic shows that more than half of California’s K-12 student population qualify for reduced-cost lunches for low-income families.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood was singled out by Brown and praised for his work with prisoners at Lerdo in Bakersfield. But with crime rates rising across the state, critics challenge Brown’s statement of success for California’s “pioneering new programs and treatments” for inmates.

State Sen. Jean Fuller said that despite improvement, “In my senate district, unemployment remains high, severe drought is causing economic hardships and housing prices have not fully recovered.”

She urged California’s leaders to prepare for the future by investing in education so that students have the opportunity to go to college and receive degrees for in-demand careers such as science, math and engineering.

“Modernizing the state’s water infrastructure ensures this vital resource is available for our fast-growing cities and fulfills the promises made to the agricultural regions of our state.”

Fuller also called upon California’s leaders to reduce unnecessary regulation that stands in the way of job creation and impedes economic expansion.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove said that despite Brown’s claims for fiscal responsibility, “buried deep in the budget proposal he released earlier this month you’ll find a strategy to increase the size of the government and hire more state workers.”

She said his plan will cost millions and impact thousands of jobs in the private sector. “Public employees cost us not just a paycheck, but healthcare and pensions for life, and any true move toward fiscal responsibility must take seriously these long-term obligations.”

Grove also said that California’s recovery lags behind the nation, and is routinely ranked as the worst state to do business.

“Putting the state’s private sector jobs first and making California more competitive are the only way we’ll put people back to work and bring in new revenue. I was hopeful that this would be the year for real solutions, but is 2014 just going to be more of the same?”

Story First Published: 2014-01-29