Brown's 1st Year - A Year of No Reform and Lost Credibility
For Jerry Brown, it was a year of no reform and lost credibility.
The first year of a new executive's term, often with political winds and a honeymoon at his back, is the time when he has the greatest opportunity to make significant changes. Brown wasted that opportunity by not pushing for any meaningful reforms. Instead, he sent voters the bill for bailing out Sacramento in the form of tax increases.
In doing so, Brown threatened Californians with a fiscal nightmare of heavy-handed cuts to education and services unless we adopted his poorly conceived – and economically bad - tax increase. Californians didn’t fall for his tax increase and the fiscal nightmare never came to pass - as most fair-minded analysts understood it wouldn't. Brown's unfounded threats cost him his credibility. His bad policies left him without any significant first year achievements.
No Meaningful Reforms.
Brown excelled in cosmetic reforms such as cutting cell phones and state cars, but did nothing to reduce and reform the state’s bloated bureaucracy. Indeed, there was no reduction in the size of government – instead there are more government employees today than when he started.
We saw no major education reforms in Brown’s first year – not even a two year budget cycle which many educators want. There was no Central Valley recovery plan offered let alone adopted.
Perhaps the only significant change – which cannot be considered a reform because the word "reform" implies an improvement – was Brown’s prison realignment plan that has met with almost universal disapproval.
Critically, there has been no significant change to our state’s structural unemployment problem. Instead, the long-term problem worsens as regulations multiply, as the omnipresent threats of higher taxes and the lack of any true permanent reforms continue to drive away employers.
Brown campaigned on "the sovereignty of the people." Yet he broke his word by raising fees without a vote and by signing SB202 and thereby not allowing voters to enact a spending cap in June 2012 - exposing his hollow pledge to "let the people vote."
Beyond that, to support his massive tax increase demands during the first half of this year, Brown threatened the alleged necessity of unthinkable, draconian cuts to education and other social services. He did so disingenuously, all the while knowing Republican leaders provided budget solutions that protected education. Sure enough, a “balanced” budget was passed without any such fiscal Armageddon.
In truth, Brown wanted those higher taxes to pay for a huge expansion of government spending - in excess of 27% - over the next 3 years. Thankfully, voters didn’t fall for Brown’s “Chicken Little” claims.
Going into the New Year a basic question must be asked: Can we believe Jerry Brown and his promise of reform? Since credibility is easier maintained than recovered and we have seen Brown's brand of timid leadership, the answer is no.
All of which leaves Brown, if he cares about his legacy, in the position that if he wants to make a significant difference, he needs to take bold action for California’s future instead of wasting its promise.