He quoted Franklin Roosevelt and William Butler Yeats.
And he told the stories of Pharaoh and Joseph and the "Little
Engine that Could." Governor Jerry Brown turned to every
trick in his book Thursday to push an ambitious agenda in his State
of the State address - all while urging fiscal discipline from the
The governor packed his speech with references from the
Brown: "Recall the story of
Genesis and Pharaoh's dream of seven cows…"
…to the historical:
Brown: "Remember how California
began. In 1769, under King Charles III…"
The former Jesuit seminarian didn't quote any Latin this time,
as he often does. But he did take credit for the apparent end
to years of budget deficits:
Brown: "Against those who take
pleasure, singing of our demise, California did the
And the governor tried to strike a balance between two
seemingly-competing goals. First, his desire for the state to
"live within its means."
Brown: "Fiscal discipline is not
the enemy of our good intentions but the basis for realizing
And second, an agenda full of proposals - some of them costly,
and all with significant opposition. He's calling for
far-reaching changes to California's education funding system;
rewriting the landmark environmental law governing development
projects; and building two tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta that would carry water to Central and Southern
California. Finally, there's the ambitious but costly
high-speed rail project, which he compared to the story of "The
Little Engine that Could."
Brown: "The engine pulled in
front of the long line of freight cars, and started puffing away -
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. I think I
can. And over the mountain, the little engine went!
We're gonna get over that mountain. Have no doubt about
It's a metaphor Brown might want Californians to apply to the
state as a whole, now that its budget crisis is mostly
In his speech, Governor Brown linked his policy goals to the
biblical story of the Pharaoh taking the advice of Joseph: Store up
reserves during years of plenty. That certainly struck a
chord with Republican lawmakers. Senate Minority Leader Bob
Huff says some of Brown's speech endorsed Republican
Huff: "He talked about a rainy
day fund, he talked about fiscal conservatives, fewer bills,
smaller government, he talked about tuition freeze, he talked about
CEQA reform, those are all ideas we've put out there in the
But Huff and other Republican legislators question whether the
Governor's focus on "living within our means" will change in seven
years when the revenue from Proposition 30 ends. And while
Brown called for fiscal discipline, he also wants huge investments
in water projects and high speed rail. Republican Senator Ted
Gaines: "Well I don't like the
high speed rail, I'm just very worried that we're going to spend
hundreds of billions of dollars on that project and it's not going
to pencil out."
But Democratic lawmakers were generally pleased with the
Governor's message. One area where they disagree is Brown's
plan to build two underground tunnels to pump water from the San
Joaquin Delta to the Central Valley and Southern California.
Some Democrats are on board, but Assembly member Roger Dickinson is
among those who are not.
Dickinson: "We've got to restore
the Delta, preserve the ecology and we've got to make sure that
Californians have water that they need, I think there's a balance,
whether or not it's exactly the project that's under discussion now
or not is still up for debate."
Democratic leaders say they'll work to strike the right
balance between investing, paying down debt and building a
Republican and Democratic lawmakers may have had different
views of the State of the State Address. But for the first
time in a long time the Governor did not have to speak about huge
budget deficits - and that pleased everyone.