Yesterday, Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown took the oath of office for Governor for the fourth time. Unless existing term limit laws are changed, Brown will be the only four-term Governor for the State of California. In his inaugural address, Brown highlighted the differences in the state of California’s fiscal health since his inauguration four years ago.
Then, the state was deep in debt – $26 billion – and our unemployment rate was 12.1 percent. Now, the state budget, after a decade of fiscal turbulence, is finally balanced – more precariously than I would like – but balanced. California has seen more than 1.3 million new jobs created in just four years and the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.2 percent. Thanks goes to the Legislature for cutting spending, the economy for recovering and the people for voting for temporary taxes.
We also have the people to thank for Propositions 1 and 2, which save water and money and prepare us for an uncertain future. These are measures that nearly every Democrat and Republican voted to put on the ballot and nearly 70 percent of voters ultimately approved. And I’m proud to report that as a result, by the end of the year, we will be investing in long overdue water projects and saving $2.8 billion in the state’s new constitutionally protected Rainy Day Fund.
And we’re not stopping there. Soon we will make the last payment on the $15 billion of borrowing made to cover budget deficits dating back to 2002. We will also repay a billion dollars borrowed from schools and community colleges and another $533 million owed to local governments.
Brown reflected that the problems faced by our state today are similar to the same problems our state faced 56 years ago when his father was inaugurated as Governor.
So you see, these problems, they never completely go away. They remain to challenge and elicit the best from us.
To that end, over the next four years – and beyond – we must dedicate ourselves to making what we have done work, to seeing that the massive changes in education, health care and public safety are actually carried out and endure. The financial promises we have already made must be confronted honestly so that they are properly funded. The health of our state depends on it.
Brown ended his address with specific goals for the future environmental health of California, almost doubling down on California’s already ambitious goals.
We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being. So far, we have been able to do that.
Toward that end, I propose three ambitious goals to be accomplished within the next 15 years:
- Increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources;
- Reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent;
- Double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.
I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles. How we achieve these goals and at what pace will take great thought and imagination mixed with pragmatic caution. It will require enormous innovation, research and investment. And we will need active collaboration at every stage with our scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, businesses and officials at all levels.
Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels. This is exciting, it is bold and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.
Brown’s goals are significant, but they can be achieved. It will be interesting to see where we are in the next 15 years.