State of the State: Jerry Brown twists Republican arms – with a smile
Jerry Brown's State of the State met expectations: 15 minutes focused on his plan for closing California's $25.4 billion deficit, with just a touch of humor to try to bring Republicans on board.
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In a tactic that some analysts felt worked, others didn’t, and still others said came out of left field, Brown invoked the crisis in Egypt to push legislators to support his proposed referendum.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Jerry Brown through the years
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“When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people.… The state belongs to all of us, not just the people in this chamber.”
“In typical Jerry Brown fashion, he combined a sensible discussion of fiscal policy with an off-the-wall analogy to Egypt,” said Jack Pitney, political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. “So if lawmakers pass tax and budget measures without going to the people, do they really resemble a brutal dictator?”
Any better ideas?
Brown challenged critics who believe they have better ideas to “let the different ideas come forth.”
“California faces a crisis that is real and unprecedented,” Brown said, saying the times demanded action “boldly and without delay.”
“The only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance,” Brown argued, citing the deep divisions in the legislature between Democrats loath to make further deep cuts to social programs and Republicans adamantly opposed to tax increases.
At an impromptu news conference after the speech, Brown expressed dismay at Republican lawmakers for not expressing exactly how they would balance the budget. “Brown made a big point of saying – and it seemed pretty genuine – that if anyone has any suggestions please let me know,” says Jessica Levinson, political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies.
Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton noted that voters have already rejected an extension of the taxes that Brown wants to extend – in 2009. “Higher taxes didn’t solve the problem two years ago, [and] it won’t solve it now,” now Dutton said. “Taxpayers already said no.”
Overall, Ms. Levinson says she was reminded that “Brown is not a fantastic public speaker. Maybe he avoided the teleprompter because he didn’t want to have a [Michele] Bachmann moment," referring to the way that the Minnesota congresswoman appeared to be staring off camera in her tea party rebuttal to the State of the Union address.
"He read in a way that seemed like he was timing himself," she said. "He actually is at his best when he looks up and goes off script.”