Jerry Brown taking his budget-cutting campaign into GOP territory
After the collapse of the California budget deal, Jerry Brown is appealing directly to Republican voters where they live, including a GOP-friendly proposal to reform public employee pensions.
With the entire California government in blame-game mode over the great budget deal that wasn’t, the man in the middle of it all – Gov. Jerry Brown – is hitting the road.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The idea is not to escape the name-calling, finger-pointing, and condemnation over the failure of the Legislature to authorize a special election to extend some taxes, but rather to seize the moment and make a preemptive strike on the issue of public employee pensions, his Republican opponent’s most appealing issue with voters.
Governor Brown was seeking the extra tax revenues, accompanied by billions in spending cuts, to erase California’s caustic $26 billion budget shortfall.
He’ll also take his case for tax increases directly into the most hostile of areas: Republican districts – many of which he has not visited since taking office – where his opponents have signed “no new taxes” pledges.
If that sounds like a fool’s errand or counterintuitive to some, political experts here say it’s a great idea.
“I think it’s a brilliant move because he’s going right to the people, who are clearly not wanting to hear about the alternative of a total-cuts budget,” says Barbara O’Connor, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento.
“It’s clearly his effort to take the issues right to those specifically in GOP districts and say ‘your representatives rejected this and I need to explain it to you.’ It keeps the trust in his promise that ‘I won’t do anything [on taxes] without talking to you.’ ”
The idea will no doubt annoy his fellow Democrats, she says, but Brown can finesse the idea in person that he is still willing to make more cuts but “let’s bridge a few billion this way as well.”
Taking the lead on pension reform
Brown will visit Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis groups and release more of the YouTube videos that he already has, talking off the cuff directly to voters. He may enlist surrogates from several state and city chambers of commerce who have said they support his ideas. The moves will also offset criticism about the recently failed budget talks, that Brown was unwilling to ruffle employee unions by trimming one of their most revered benefits.
Others say Brown has no choice but to take the lead in pension reform, partly because he still needs to seek voter support for a tax measure, mostly likely by initiative in the fall.