Jerry Brown may not be universally admired, but polls indicate that he’s virtually certain to win a record fourth term as governor, perhaps even in a landslide, and thus four more years to cement his place in political history.
However, that place depends largely on how well these major acts, all works in progress, of term No. 3 pan out:
While Brown deserves credit for dampening the Legislature’s expansionist tendencies, the budget is balanced largely because of a revenue surge from an economic recovery and a temporary tax increase.
Brown is also championing a rainy-day fund to ease the impact of future downturns, but it won’t do much if a major recession hits the state in this decade, which history indicates is likely. Meanwhile, the temporary taxes will expire near the end of his next term.
“The prison emergency is over in California,” Brown declared in 2013. However, it appears only to have been shifted into another venue.
Counties have been given a constitutional guarantee of money, but it’s indirectly coming from that temporary tax increase.
Meanwhile, as the Los Angeles Times reported last weekend, local jails are being packed with 142,000 diverted felons, forcing sheriffs to release lesser miscreants, and they are complaining that the revenue doesn’t cover their costs.
The school money is constitutionally protected and would complicate the budget should revenue drop later in the decade. Focusing money on poor kids is a theory whose efficacy, or lack thereof, can only be proved over time.
The governor persuaded the Legislature to divert a big chunk of the state’s new cap-and-trade greenhouse gas fees into the bullet train, but there are legal clouds, and even with the fee money, the train is still many billions short of financing.