How Now Brown Gov?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I have an op-ed in today’s Sacramento Bee, the subject being lessons learns from Governor Jerry Brown’s surprising win on Proposition 30 and what comes next for California’s chief executive.

My takeaways:

  • In addition to being smart enough to shift Prop 30’s message from bailing out Sacramento to bailing out K-12 and higher-ed, Brown had the good fortune to slip into California’s Democratic “jet stream” – he received 615,000 fewer votes than President Obama, but 715,000 more than the “no” campaign. Such is the Democratic edge in California these days that there’s room to navigate – even on tax increases.
  • With Republicans now on the short side of “supermajorities” in both legislative chambers (i.e., they can’t block tax increases if the Democrats go down that road), Brown’s real rivals in 2013 are . . . his fellow Democrats in the State Legislature. The governor’s promised not to turn the next legislative into a tax feeding frenzy – we’ll see if the decidedly more liberal legislators share that sentiment. Brown sees governing as paddling a canoe left and right, trying to stay in the middle. The State Legislature doesn’t. We’ll see if the two can coexist.
  • So where does Brown go next? My suggestion: explore political reform. That would include revamping the state’s campaign finance laws, plus pursuing sunshine and oversight measures that would increase government accountability, begin the restore the public’s confidence in wayward Sacramento. It’s not as sexy as opening freeways and classrooms, but it does connect Brown to the governor who introduced direct democracy to California: the legendary Hiram Johnson.

Follow Bill Whalen on Twitter: @hooverwhalen