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"Man up," Governor Brown tells legislators

9:59 AM, Apr 13, 2012   |    comments
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Governor Jerry Brown has never been one to hold back saying what he thinks, and in a Friday morning radio interview, told legislators to get going on the tough proposals he's offered to help balance the state budget.

"The Legislature has to man up, make the cuts," Brown said in an interview on KGO Radio in San Francisco.

The Q&A with host Ronn Owens touched on everything from Brown's November tax increase initiative to Indian gaming, presidential politics, and beyond. And the quip about legislative action - buzzworthy as it will no doubt be - seems to offer perhaps the first real sign of frustration from the governor about the pace of budget action this year under the state Capitol dome.

Brown's January budget proposal, while well digested in dozens of legislative budget committee hearings since then, nonetheless was met with a collective bleh. The spending plan relied on several cuts being enacted by March 1, most notably a $1 billion reduction in welfare-to-work spending.

But March came and went without those cuts being made. And Democratic legislators have continued to resist many of the most controversial downsizings, rejecting everything from child care cuts to nixing statewide plans for a transitional kindergarten and beyond.

Their argument has been that until state income taxes are gathered in April - the biggest month for the biggest single piece of the state's revenue pie - it doesn't make good sense to cut programs that ultimately may or may not need to be cut. But as daily tax receipts are showing, the revenue news does not seem to be offering any relief.

Quite the contrary; as noted on Wednesday, the first one-third of April only produced one-ninth of the revenues that Brown's budget predicted.

In other words, things could be even worse than expected... a point Governor Brown made in his radio interview, acknowledging that the $9.2 billion projected deficit "is probably bigger now" as real data comes in.

But back to the "man up" quip.  As a one-time top aide to former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger noted in a tweet during the radio interview, is the masculine-call-to-arms really that much different than Schwarzenegger's famous July 2004 jab calling legislators "girlie men" for not passing his budget?

That's a debate for others to launch.  It should be noted that Governor Brown also spoke at length in his radio interview about working women in low-income families, defending the state welfare-to-work program against the criticisms of one of KGO's callers. 

The gender card became one played often in the Schwarzenegger era (most prominently, his 2005 reaction to protesting nurses who interrupted a speech he was giving); it would seem harder to play in Brown's case.

More accurately, perhaps, is to say that Brown's comment seems to be part of the familiar frustration that governors have with the legislative process.  Chief executives often think legislators should fall into line; as former Governor Gray Davis famously proclaimed in a 1999 interview, "Their job is to implement my vision."

Um, that didn't work out very well, now did it?

No doubt legislative leaders would say, in response to Brown's radio jab, that they've indeed made deep cuts when needed -- most recently, early budget reductions in 2011 as part of the governor's year one spending proposal.

Still, the comment stands for what it really was: vintage Jerry Brown.  Unrehearsed, sharp-elbowed, and no doubt unapologetic.

News10/KXTV

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