COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | RICHARD RIDER

Brown may be a surprisingly good governor

Granted, Jerry Brown is crazy. Proof positive is that he ran for governor of California, a doomed state. But he just might be crazy in a good way.

Who knows what Gov. Brown will do? I don't. I doubt Jerry knows. But oddly enough, I predict that -- from a fiscal conservative viewpoint -- he'll be far better than any of us imagined.

Not great. Perhaps not even good. Just better than conservatives expect -- a lot better.

Jerry Brown is an iconoclast who has reached the final office of his long political career. He was put back in the governorship by the Democrats, especially the labor unions. But there is no political reason for him to pander to his supporters.

Jerry is facing monstrous state problems. A bottomless budget deficit. Unfunded pension obligations that are simply unfathomable. A Democrat legislature that now can pass damn near any budget it wants by simple majority vote. A high-speed rail project that is a spectacular financial train wreck bearing down on us all. A hara-kiri global warming bill (Assembly Bill 32) that will gut the state's economy starting in 2011. High unemployment, high taxes, a terrible business climate. Little prospect for economic improvement.

I'm predicting that Jerry doesn't want all that to happen -- certainly not on his watch. And, contrary to what people think, he's smart enough to know he can do much to reduce the problems.

So here are my perhaps reckless predictions:

  • First the easy one: This spring Jerry will propose tax increases. But they will likely go to a citizen vote by summer, and likely will be turned down. I suspect he knows that they will be turned down. But he's gotta try. It's in the Democrat DNA.

  • The legislature will extend the 1 percent sales tax and most other "temporary taxes" it passed a couple years ago. Jerry will support the tax extensions.

  • In a surprise move, Jerry will veto whatever Democrat budget is passed, demanding spending cuts. To override the veto will require a two-thirds vote, and so the GOP will be back in play in the budget process. With Brown's surprising resistance to the big spenders in his own party, 2011 could see an epic budget battle the likes of which we haven't heretofore witnessed.

  • Brown will suspend Assembly Bill 32. It's inconceivable to me that he would go ahead with this draconian legislation at this time, only to end up overseeing the demise of our state.

  • Brown will call for major pension reform. Not major enough, mind you, but far more than the public employee labor unions were hoping for.

  • Brown will push for some significant deregulation to make our state less hostile to business. Actually, I'm expecting some pleasantly surprising proposals from him in this regard.

    Will Brown's actions save the state? Sadly, even if I'm right, the answer is "no." The problems are too big for Jerry Brown to solve -- especially with a state legislature owned and operated by the labor unions.

    But he's going to try to do the right thing. More often than not. I hope.


    Rider is chairman of the San Diego Tax Fighters.

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    1 UserComments
    Richard Rider 11:24am November 12, 2010

    If you wish to read the unexpurgated version of this column (too long for a paper to print), you can read it on my blog: www.RiderBlog.NotLong.com But frankly this SDDT column is well edited, and includes most of the meat of my wordy version. Of course, there are other controversial gems on my blog, if you are so inclined.