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Our View: Welcome back Brown, the floor is yours

Our View

Posted: January 6, 2011 9:21 p.m.
Updated: January 8, 2011 4:30 a.m.

Monday marked the end of one era in California politics and the rebirth of another. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ended seven tumultuous years in Sacramento and former Gov. Jerry Brown re-assumed the reins of government after a 28-year hiatus.

As Californians celebrated another peaceful transfer of power, we thought it appropriate to look back at what the actor-turned-politician accomplished, and at the challenges facing his successor.

Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilder-turned-action-hero- turned-politician, was swept into office following the successful recall of former Gov. Gray Davis in 2002, the first successful gubernatorial recall in California history. He came in promising to be a governor like none we had ever seen before — a goal he accomplished.

He also came in amidst a flood of bombastic rhetoric, promising to clean up California’s financial mess and restore fiscal sanity in Sacramento. In this regard, he  failed markedly.

As Schwarzenegger returns to private life, he leaves the state in just as precarious a financial state as he found it seven years ago.

 Schwarzenegger did deliver on one campaign promise: repealing an increase in the car tax on his first day in office. But instead of helping matters, that only created a $6 billion hole in the state budget. That increase later was reinstated.

He attempted to restructure state government, a move analysts said could have saved the state $32 billion over five years, but backed down when he met fierce opposition. As the governor leaves office, the state is insolvent, with a $25 billion structural deficit.

If Schwarzenegger will be remembered for anything, it will be for his groundbreaking environmental activism. It’s a passion he promises to pursue in the future.

Gov. Jerry Brown returns to the governor’s mansion after serving as California’s governor from 1975 to 1983, and as the state’s attorney general for the past four years. As he takes the reins of government once again, he finds himself in charge of a far different state.

During his first tenure, California was blessed with a series of surpluses. Today, tax revenue has dropped sharply because of the Great Recession, and statewide unemployment lingers at 12 percent.

Brown won in November by presenting himself to voters as an “elder statesman” with the experience necessary to tackle the state’s financial mess. He promised to “look under the hood” of state government and to make the tough cuts necessary to bring the budget back in line.

As Brown begins the arduous process of tackling the state budget, we urge him to do so with the greatest possible degree of transparency.

Brown already has warned Californians that some tough sacrifices will have to be made. Voters are far more likely to accept those sacrifices if they’re allowed to be involved in the process from the beginning.

 Another major challenge facing Brown is the state’s education system. State figures released early last month show that California’s high school dropout rate is about 21.7 percent.

In addition, there is a persistent achievement gap between high-performing students and low-performing students.

 Clearly, the state’s dropout rate is too high. And the achievement gap is troubling. As the governor begins examining this issue, we strongly urge him to allocate the state’s limited resources where it can do the most good — the classrooms.

If cuts to education must be made,  we urge the governor to look first at cutting the education establishment’s bloated bureaucracy instead of penalizing students and their families.

Schwarzenegger came into office with a great deal of promise seven years ago, and failed to live up to his own hype.
Perhaps no one could.

Brown, on the other hand, appears ready to take a more pragmatic approach.

As he assumes the mantle of power for the third time, we wait anxiously to see if time and his life experience is the right answer to California’s lingering issues.


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