On to today’s California headlines:
Gov. Jerry Brown took ownership of California’s controversial high-speed-rail project on Wednesday in his State of the State speech, forcefully defending the plan that has received blistering bipartisan criticism in recent weeks.
Brown likened the project to massive infrastructure advances of past decades, including the building of the Panama Canal, BART and the interstate highway system – all of which he said were derided in their time – and he called on the Legislature to approve several billion dollars in funding for the first phase of construction “without any hesitation.”
“Those who believe that California is in decline will naturally shrink back from such a strenuous undertaking,” Brown said in his 20-minute speech to the Legislature and other dignitaries gathered at the Capitol. “I understand that feeling, but I don’t share it because I know this state and the spirit of the people who choose to live here.”
Brown also used his address to propose changes in schools to shift power from the state to local officials and to cut down on student testing, and said the plan for a huge project to move water through or around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta would take shape this summer. He also said California was on the financial mend and that the state is in position to become the epicenter of renewable-energy development.
Auto insurance companies will get a second shot at asking California voters to allow them to use a motorist’s coverage history when setting rates.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced today that the proposed auto insurance pricing initiative has qualified for the November 2012 ballot. Proponents had submitted more than 800,000 voter signatures to election officials late last year.
The measure, backed by the American Agents Alliance, is similar to Proposition 17, the failed June 2010 measure bankrolled by Mercury General. Supporters, who say the change would allow companies to extend existing loyalty discounts to new customers who want to switch providers, have updated this version to address concerns about rates for members of the military and the unemployed.
Critics say the change would result in increased rates for motorists who experience a lapse in coverage.
After years of economic pain and deep budget cuts, Gov. Jerry Brown declared California to be “on the mend,” saying the state is emerging from financial turmoil and proclaiming his dedication to a string of ambitious public projects.
Delivering his annual State of the State speech to a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday, Brown acknowledged more spending reductions to come, saying they are needed to complete the “unfinished business” of closing a $9.2-billion budget gap.
But the reference to austerity was a passing mention in a 20-minute address dominated by the sunny optimism that characterized the state during Brown’s first governorship, more than three decades ago.
“California has problems,” the governor said, “but rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated.”
He proposed large investments in infrastructure, urging construction of the nation’s first bullet train, as well as significant changes in the state’s education and public pension systems.
The speech, which drew moderate applause and a few chuckles, stood in stark contrast to last year’s, his first State of the State address after being elected in 2010. Then, he focused on fiscal discipline, offered no major policy proposals and appealed to lawmakers in both parties to support tax hikes to balance the budget.
Jerry Brown devoted much of Wednesday’s State of the State speech to dissing “declinists” who portray California as failing because they don’t understand that “California is turbulent, less predictable and, well, different.”
He could have been speaking of himself and his odd way – little changed from his first governorship three decades ago – of simultaneously embracing positions that would seem to be self-contradictory, at least to lesser beings than himself.
The 20-minute address was full of them.
Enjoy your morning!