by David Siders | The Sacramento Bee
Gov. Jerry Brown, warning of a future economic downturn despite California’s brimming budget, urged financial restraint in his State of the State address on Thursday, while offering no new policy proposals.
“The challenge is to solve today’s problems without making those of tomorrow even worse,” he said. “In that spirit, you are not going to hear me talk about new programs today. Rather, I am going to focus on how we pay for the commitments we have already made.”
He said that amid an uncertain economic future, “We must build a very large reserve.”
The annual speech opens a pivotal year for Brown, before focus shifts to the 2018 election to succeed him. The fourth-term Democrat enters the second year of his final term with relatively high public approval ratings and about $24 million in his campaign war chest, money that will allow him to factor heavily in ballot measure campaigns in November.
Brown, 77, is also laboring to push forward with major infrastructure projects, including the state’s $68 billion high-speed rail system and a $15.5 billion plan to divert water around the Delta to the south.
Earlier this month, Brown reintroduced a multibillion dollar plan to fund road repairs throughout the state.
In his State of the State address last year, Brown announced an initiative to reduce petroleum use in motor vehicles by as much as 15 percent within 15 years and to increase to one-half from one-third the proportion of electricity California derives from renewable sources. Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature enacted the renewable electricity mandate, but legislation to require petroleum reductions failed amid intense opposition from oil interests and moderate Democrats in the state Assembly.
The state’s financial condition has rebounded since Brown took office and confronted a staggering budget deficit in 2011. Amid economic recovery, Brown this month issued a $170.6 billion state spending plan that includes billions of dollars in new funding for schools while rejecting calls for more robust, permanent spending increases in social service programs.