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Jerry Brown Returns to Reshape California

January 4, 2011

Choices have to be made, and difficult decisions taken. At this stage of my life, I have not come here to embrace delay and denial.

Our budget problem is dire, but after years of cutbacks, I am determined to enhance our public schools so our citizens of the future have the skills, the zest and the character to keep California up among the best.

With so many people out of work and so many families losing their homes in foreclosure it is not surprising that voters tell us they are worried and believe that California is on the wrong track.

Yet, in the face of huge budget deficits year after year and the worst credit rating among the 50 states, our two political parties can’t come close to agreeing on the right path forward. They remain in their respective comfort zones, rehearsing and rehashing old political positions.

Perhaps this is the reason why the public holds the state government in such low esteem. And that’s a profound problem, not just for those of us who are elected, but for our whole system of self-government. Without the trust of the people, politics degenerates into mere spectacle; and democracy declines, leaving demagoguery and cynicism to fill the void.

The year ahead will demand courage and sacrifice. The budget I propose will assume that each of us who are elected to do the people’s business will rise above ideology and partisan interest and find what is required for the good of California. There is no other way forward. In this crisis, we simply have to learn to work together as Californians first, members of a political party second.

In seeking the Office of Governor, I said I would be guided by three principles.

First, speak the truth. No more smoke and mirrors on the budget. No empty promises.

Second, no new taxes unless the people vote for them.

Third, return—as much as possible—decisions and authority to cities, counties and schools, closer to the people.

With your help, that is exactly what I intend to do. The budget I present next week will be painful, but it will be an honest budget. The items of spending will be matched with available tax revenues and specific proposals will be offered to realign key functions that are currently spread between state and local government in ways that are complex, confusing and inefficient.

My goal is to achieve greater accountability and reduce the historic shifting of responsibility back and forth from one level of government to another. The plan represents my best understanding of our real dilemmas and possibilities. It is a tough budget for tough times.

I have thought a lot about this and it strikes me that what we face together as Californians are not so much problems but rather conditions, life’s inherent difficulties. A problem can be solved or forgotten but a condition always remains. It remains to elicit the best from each of us and show us how we depend on one another and how we have to work together.

With realism, with confidence, with loyalty—in that deepest sense—to California, to my forebearers and to posterity—as our song says:

“California here I come right back where I started from.”

– California Governor Jerry Brown, Inaugural Address January 3, 2011

Full Inaugural Transcript:

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