Transcript: Press conference Q&A with CA Gov. Jerry Brown on Prop. 30 & 2012 election results

Transcript of press briefing Q&A with California Gov. Jerry Brown on the passage of Proposition 30 and the 2012 election results on Nov. 7, 2012:

Question: For voters who might be wondering what their vote meant for Prop. 30, what banner will they see today? I mean I know we had the possibility of the cuts but schools – do they get to restore something? Some of them were conservative in their budgeting. What would you tell people?

Gov. Jerry Brown: I would tell people that instead of the state borrowing hat in hand from our school districts – which would reach $9 billion – we’re going to stop all that. We’re going to have enough money to fund the schools as our Constitution requires. So we’re not going to see the $5.5 billion in cutbacks to kindergarten through 12. We’re not going to see the big cutbacks in higher education. And going forward, we’re going to see about $2,500 per student going into our schools in California over the next 4 to 5 years. That’s good news.

Question: They’ll see more?

Gov. Jerry Brown: They’ll see more…This is not instant coffee here. This takes time and effort but over the next few years, we’re on a correct glide path, and the rating agencies have already begun to put out their own commentary on how California’s now on a stable path.

Gov. Jerry Brown on the passage of Proposition 30. SOURCE:

Question: [inaudible]…Why was education targeted in the first place? Why not say, “Look, that $5 billion…?”

Gov. Jerry Brown: Or the prisons?

Question: Yeah. The prisons.

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, it’s because we’ve already cut 30,000 plus and we’ll probably cut more from the prisons. We’ve already got rid of redevelopment. We already took down pensions for the elderly and the disabled. We already took down CalWorks. We reduced from four years to two years the amount of time you can stay on welfare without complying with work requirements.

The point is – I know people forget two things: The massive cuts that California’s made and the fact that taxes were higher just two years ago.

The sales tax was one cent higher – now it’s going to go up a quarter of a cent.

So I want people to understand because it’s a distant government; it’s a complex government.

We’re cutting and now we have more revenue but that revenue will be used prudently and judiciously, and I don’t underestimate the struggle over the next couple of years to keep on a very calm, clear, and sustainable glide path.

Question: [inaudible]…assure voters so that this money will go toward what you intended it to? And will this money be in addition to the money from Prop. 39? Is that 40% from Prop. 49 going to also go to schools or how are you work that into the equation?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, Prop. 39 will go where it’s intended. It has a measure there that’s aiming at alternative energy. It does have funding that will go into the state budget and we’ll deal with it in a proper way. I mean, this is a big budget here. It’s over $140 billion if you take all the funds. The general fund is $90 billion plus. That’s the big banana. We got to make sure we do it right. The money that came in from Prop. 30 will go into the education trust fund and the money will be used for schools just like we said.

Question: [inaudible]…Prop. 30 and Prop. 32 [mumbled audio] the Assembly and the Senate. Will this embolden the Democrats to push their agenda moving forward?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, I was preparing myself for that question. I reviewed the first book of the Bible and the Genesis. The story of Joseph and the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh had a dream about these lean cows and these fat cows, and he didn’t understand what it meant so he summoned Joseph, who happened to be in prison at the time. And Joseph explained to him there will be seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. And so when those seven years of plenty come about, you have to save all the crops and put them in the granaries so that when the famine comes, you’re ready. And seven years later, that’s what happened.

And if you look back, we had periods where money flows in and then we have periods where there was not enough money. We need the prudence of Joseph going forward over the next seven years, and I intend to make sure that that’s the story that we look to for our guidance.

Question: Are furlough days gone? Furlough days for teachers and districts? Will you re-hire teachers as a result?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Look, there’s 6 million kids, 300,000 teachers, over 1,000 school districts. They’ve got to make a lot of decisions. The good news is the state has releasing [sic] into the pocket of the school districts to take money out because it couldn’t pay its bills. That day is over. We are now living within our means because of the cuts and because of Prop 30. And that money will pay down the debts, and then with the economic recovery will create more and more money per child into the classroom, and that will mean that I think teachers will be rehired.

Question: Could you talk about what this means in terms of what the voters said in approving the tax increase? And is this a revolt against the tax revolt of 1978?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, remember this is something around 54%. So like everywhere else in the world, there’s division here, and you don’t want to over-read whatever voters say. But certainly given the massive opposition and skepticism about whether or not the state government of California can handle any more money, I see this as a vote of confidence – at least a vote of confidence with some reservations because it’s a temporary tax. And I think the real lesson here is that voters have trusted the elected representatives – maybe even trusted me – to some extent, and now we’ve got to meet that trust. So we have to make sure over the next few years that we pay our bills, we invest in the right programs, but we don’t go in any spending binges like we did in the days where you had the dot-com boom and then bust and then the mortgage boom and then the mortgage bust.

Question: Speaking of which, the Democrats are going to probably take a super majority in the House. Does that open up that opportunity for…?

Gov. Jerry Brown: I always like to think with greater power comes with greater responsibility.

Question: Were you nervous last night?

Gov. Jerry Brown: No. No. I think this measure has always enjoyed more support than the opposition and that’s been true from day one. And some people began to read tea leaves incorrectly, and then you all go off, you know, like a herd of buffalo down the road. But now we’re back on the plain of common sense, and I hope the next few months we can have a good relationship together.

Question: …Prop. 30 passed [inaudible]…tax reform or changing the way taxes are administered in California the priority for 2013?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Tax reform is always an idea that will be discussed but anytime you tax people who have never been taxed before, you’re climbing a very tall mountain. Just to increase taxes that have been around for 50 or 60 years – that’s difficult enough. But when you begin to come up with new ideas, however theoretically pleasing, it becomes quite challenging. So my door will always be open to people who have a better idea but I was pleased to see that state of employers letter this morning that they felt even though there’s volatility in the income tax because it’s temporary, we should be able to manage it.

Question: Do you see this victory as a mandate for you and for your policies for the next two years?

Gov. Jerry Brown: There’s two things I’m very skeptical about. One is mandates and one is legacies. So I’m just going to carry on in the way I understand about these things.

Question: Does the super majority means that not only can Democrats raise taxes but they can also override your vetoes?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Yes.

Question: Did the balance of power switch more to the legislative branch? Did you lose some of your power last night?

Gov. Jerry Brown: No, I think if anything, it’s the opposite. But I do know I have more experience with veto overrides than any other Governor. I think I can handle that problem without too much difficulty.

Question: You’ve talked about judicious and prudent spending. Is that message aimed at Democrats?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Look, in this campaign over the last few months, particularly on Proposition 30, there was a lot of collaboration both with the Assembly and with the State Senate. John Perez and Darrell Steinberg were really good allies. I think our relationship is deepening, and I’m looking forward with great optimism to the months ahead. That doesn’t mean there aren’t differences. We have separation of powers. There’s the legislative branch, judicial, and executive. So that’s the way the checks and the balances work. But I would say that my relationships with the legislature I think certainly better than they’ve ever been in my tenure as Governor.

Question: Are you going to use the super majority to raise more taxes?

Gov. Jerry Brown: No. I’ve already said the only way to raise a tax is to ask the people.

Question: So if they pass a tax, you’ll veto it?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, we’re not in the threat game. This is a time of celebration and coming together, not drawing lines in the sand.

Question: Is that a yes or a no?

Gov. Jerry Brown: That’s a statement of the case.

[Question inaudible]

Gov. Jerry Brown: Look, we’ve got enough money if we spend it wisely to get from here to the next election.

Question: With the super majority, can you share with us what’s on the agenda you would maybe want to push through now that you have both houses that are in agreement…?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, I could think of five things. One, we got to calibrate our regulations to ensure that they encourage jobs as well as protect other aspects of the public interests, like environment, health, and good working conditions. A lot of concerns – do we have the right rules in place? Are they retarding investments and job creation? On the other hand, these rules are generally aimed at health or the environment or strong working conditions. So that’s an area I intend to work with…

Water – lot to do in securing water reliability and I intend to give my full intention to that.

We have the high-speed rail going forward. There’s a lot to do there. With President Obama being re-elected, I think that path will be even clearer.

And education. There’s money but there’s all these issues about evaluation, about testing, about standards, about the role that the teacher has, the principle has, the school district has, and the state of California has. And I believe in the principle of subsidiary that we want to give maximum but thoughtful authority to the lowest level, which is the teacher, and then working up to the school district. So there’s room for changes in our education framework.

And finally, the budget. The budget is always – you know, I’ll be presenting a budget in January, and it’s going to be a solid budget, a sustainable budget. But that takes effort too because there’s a lot of different decisions and, you know, desires are endless. And I have to say that when I was doing zen meditation in Japan back in the late ’80s each night before going to bed, I would say to the other meditators: “Desires are endless. I vow to cut them down.” So that will be part of spirit going forward.

Question: You’ve always said no tax increase without a vote of the people.

Gov. Jerry Brown: Correct.

Question: You were asked if you were presented with a tax increase, what would you do? But as you’ve said there’s systemic problems like the VLF that were changed through the years. There are things the legislature could change.

Gov. Jerry Brown: There are things, and there’s always – this tax reform business, if some overall tax reform, I’m not going to rule anything out in that reform. I’m just saying if you want an increase of taxes, you have to ask the people.

Question: On that report, it says that California’s [incomprehensible audio] is expected to improve. But it also says more need to be done to stabilize the California budget. What do you see as something that could be done to…?

Gov. Jerry Brown: You know I would wait until I present my budget because I’ll take several weeks working on that. The work is never done. I mean, there’s this idea that government is about there’s a problem and you solve it. No, life is a condition and you deal with it every day or every month, and we will always have issues between the money we have and what we do with it. And because of the kind of system and because of human nature, the desires will always outrun the available money. And it becomes the job – and that’s why we have a Governor. If you have a machine that tends to get overheated or speed up, the Governor is a mechanism to slow it down as it attempts to speed up. And I will take that mechanical metaphor and think about it as I make the budget.

Question: What role do you see legislative Republicans…given that they’ve lost any ability to affect policy?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, I’m certainly going to solicit their advice. I mean, the fact is Republicans have fallen into some doctrinaire cul-de-sacs. And just listening on the – I even heard the great Mike Murphy saying that they’re going to have to do a reset so I think they might listen to him. But, you know, we do have – there are issues, and [on] workers’ compensation the Republicans and the Democrats got together. What is needed is the constituents out there – the Farm Bureau, the Chamber, organized labor, environmentalists – those forces constitute the power grid of Sacramento, and I will work with all those forces to achieve the goals that I’ve set forward and I’ll certainly include the Republicans in that.

Question: This should not be looked upon by the voters as a cure-all?

Gov. Jerry Brown: There are no cure-alls.

Question: None, whatsoever?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, what’s a cure-all? They’re all temporary, right? In the end – in the end, you know what happens…[incomprehensible audio] In the end we have new elections.

Question: Do you fear that some people predict that there would be an exodus of the wealthy, saying that their taxes [are too] high?

Gov. Jerry Brown: The Stanford study shows very clearly that high-paying individuals have more from their spouse than from the state of California, and that most of them when they do leave, leave because they’ve just gone through a nasty divorce. And so I would say if they would all work on their relationships, we’ll take care of spending their money wisely.

Question: Prop. 13 – the thing that everyone says is the beginning of California’s problems. You’ve said you don’t like it; you’d like to see it go. Is this your opportunity?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Look, I might have said that the Gold Rush was the beginning of our problem. Maybe it was Juan Cabrillo when he showed up in 1543. I think that this idea that the beginning of our problems, I think you might want to go back to Genesis…

Question: Some of your supporters are emboldened, understandably, by the results yesterday. So even if you don’t go to a legislature for a tax increase, they’re already thinking about going to the people again for more revenue…

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, I think we ought – that’s worrying about something that’s way over the distant horizon. We have plenty of challenges to get a budget and get through the budget in time for the legislative deadline. Then we have all these other issues. We have water; we have education; we have – there’s a lot of concerns about regulation – highly divided in how people see it. So I think there will be plenty on the agenda for the executive and the legislative branch to work on, and I hope the Republicans would come in and discuss things.

Question: Would you go back to the campaign for one second and talk about what that $11 million donation did for the campaign? Was it, in essence, a boost for you – an issue you could grab on to?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, I think the key to the election was a temporary tax for education after years of cutbacks in education and other government services. The context was there for a sympathetic consideration of a tax proposal, and the one that ultimately emerged as my plan C had the right elements that commend it. And I also think the campaign was good. The work of schools and universities and all those constituencies – that helped. Political leadership of the Democratic Party helped. I think everything came together so it’s not a formula you might be able to repeat. That’s why I think we ought to be grateful – and I am grateful – for the people of California for voting yes on 30 but I want to stick – keep the hand on the tiller – I’m looking for the right metaphor – your shoulder to the plow. That’s the metaphor I want. That’s what we need – shoulder to the plow.

I went up to my land, west of Williams, and I hiked on the very hilltops that my great-grandfather did just shortly after the Gold Rush. And I like to reflect on how tough it was then, what they faced, and what we have to do now and it’s really not as difficult so we should be able to make California even better.

Question: Speaking of constituencies, how much of a role did students – the college student population – play? You went to a lot of universities and talked to them. How much of a role do you think they played in passing this?

Gov. Jerry Brown: They were very important because of the online registration. Had a lot of young people came on through online registration and that was certainly activated on all the college campuses. They had a big stake in this.

Question: [Inaudible]

Gov. Jerry Brown: I don’t know. The most exciting election for me was when I was elected to the community college board in Los Angeles. That was very exciting.

Question: [Inaudible]

Gov. Jerry Brown: I wasn’t thinking about it that way. Basically, I had no other choice forward. So there are a lot of ways to interpret what the implications are but I tried to extend the taxes. Actually, I tried to have a tax measure that was more onerous in a less sympathetic electorate a year ago but luckily the Republicans saved us and pushed this thing into a Presidential election when there are far more favorable voters to be had.

Question: [Inaudible]

Gov. Jerry Brown: I was a thinking about that this morning too and I think it’s – we should just wait on that. We have a lot to do, and we have two years. I think it’ll be highly premature. It’s like thinking about all these other things – the two-thirds vote – there’s a lot of stuff down the road.

I think it was a real win last night. It was a win for the people of California. And now, let’s take that win and not grab defeat from the jaws of victory but use it to go forward and represent the people of California well.

Question: But there are plenty of people who, of course, voted against it, who just don’t want taxes no matter what. What can you say to those people now today to make them sleep better at night?

Gov. Jerry Brown: I just made my commitment: I’m going to try spend this money wisely. We’re going to make sure that our school return to their greatness of former days; our universities continue not just the engine of growth but a seed of creativity and imagination – all of which [incomprehensible audio] what California is.

Question: As we talked, there were a lot of doubts about the campaign. When you left the Sheraton last night, how did you feel? What did you do when you left the hotel?

Gov. Jerry Brown: When I left the hotel? What did I do? I think I went home.

Question: How did you feel last night – what was going through your head at that point?

Gov. Jerry Brown: Well, I anticipated this…It was a good campaign. We had a good idea for the times. And I can’t say too much about the fact what the cuts did. So if there were no cuts in schools and there are no cutbacks in universities – no tuition increases, and there were no eliminate of redevelopment, we wouldn’t be where we are today. So the fact is state government has made cuts. Now, a lot of people voted no are not aware of the cuts – just like they’re not aware of the fact that in California eliminated…this tax. We had a tax that the old – if the Schwarzenegger tax was in effect, it’d be $14 billion higher this year. And in many respects, this tax is a substitute for the car tax that cost the state $6 billion we paid to the locals and the other tax – the single sales factor. So if you look at some of the other loopholes, we’ve plugged structural holes that were actually created before. And I know we’re getting to be less, you know, the property tax, the car tax were not as stable but you’ve got to take the world as you find it. And if you look out there at the electorate, they’re very disinclined toward some of these more stable taxes. The stable taxes have more of a regressive than a progressive feature. And there’s a lot of theory – because I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Arthur Laffer about the evils of progressive taxation, which were really brought to the fore under Roosevelt. But taxation needs to be fair; it needs to be easily administered; it needs to be clear; and it does need to be stable. So we achieved a lot of those goals but not all of them. But luckily, it’s a seven-year program and by the end of that seven year, it’ll be my goal to make sure that the state is in such fiscal health that we can keep gliding into the future without having to go back to the well for more taxes.

Question: What message do you take with what voters think about the power of the [unions]?

Gov. Jerry Brown: If I could give some advice to some very conservative people, they see through a filter and they see only the negative aspects of union – organized labor. The fact is average people – not the powerful and not the wealthy – feel a benefit of having an advocate in their corner. And while all sides, all parties, all people have flaws, when you try to emasculate an institution that does protect the less powerful, you’re carrying a heavy burden. And even though many powerful people think they can do that, they’ve failed now three times. And the ability of the dues check-off is very much part of the First Amendment’s freedom of association – coming together to advance a collective goal. And that effort to cut that off was hypocritical and the way they kind of framed it, I think, helped sink it. And that level of – well, let me put it charitably – lack of candor was mirrored in the other group, which called themselves small business but they’re taking huge amounts of money from people who are not small business and then they say they’re for transparency and they’re for consumers. So I think there was a vote last night for common sense and a certain amount of straightforward “This is the way it is. Let’s be practical.” And, you know, like them or not, unions have advanced middle-class standards all across America for the last 75 years, and I think some of the conservatives ought to come back and appreciate that just as previous Republican Governors like Earl Warren did in the past…

Question: Do you have a message to Molly Munger?

Gov. Jerry Brown: No, I have no message for Munger. I’ve delivered more messages – that’s why now I’m just going to keep these cards from people who say “What’s next?” – I’m just going to hand out my Brown, Yes on 30 card.



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