Calif. Gov. Brown Hopes To Break Partisan Gridlock
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And here in California, the latest political trend isn't just retro, it's vintage. Jerry Brown, the Democrat who spent decades in office as governor, mayor and state attorney general, is back in the state house. He took the oath of office in a short, no-frills ceremony yesterday. As John Myers of member station KQED reports, Governor Brown faces a state long on problems and short on politicians willing to compromise.
JOHN MYERS: Rarely does a politician's actual oath of office ever seem newsworthy or poignant. But for Jerry Brown, the once-and-now again governor of California, you have to always expect the unexpected.
JERRY BROWN: Unidentified Woman: Without any mental reservation.
BROWN: Unidentified Woman: Or...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BROWN: Really. No mental reservations.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MYERS: After Brown took the oath of office, standing beside his wife, Anne, the governor said no budget plan will work if partisan gridlock continues to dominate.
BROWN: There's no other way forward. In this crisis, we simply have to learn to work together as Californians first, members of a political party second.
MYERS: Jerry Brown, who was last governor in 1983, pledged it on day one, and he likened it to the way things used to be.
BROWN: Every Californian is heir to some form of powerful tradition, some history of overcoming challenges much more daunting than the ones we face today. From the native peoples who survived the total transformation in their way of life, to the most recent arrival, stories of courage abound.
MYERS: Brown's task now is convincing recalcitrant lawmakers to summon that courage. Legislative leaders say the new governor has been meeting with them privately since winning the election back in November. Democrat John Perez of Los Angeles is the speaker of the California state Assembly.
JOHN PEREZ: We're very sober about understanding the challenges that we face. It's going to be difficult to find the solutions that make the most sense. But we're committed to working with the governor and doing that.
MYERS: But Republicans in Sacramento, while appreciative of Governor Jerry Brown's willingness to talk, still seem unconvinced. The governor has not made any official statement, but most political and policy insiders say they now expect Brown will ask voters to weigh in, later this year, on the budget. And all expect him to ask for an extension of temporary tax increases. Connie Conway is the Republican leader of the state Assembly.
CONNIE CONWAY: No more taxes. Make do with what we have. I think that's what most Californians are having to do with their own budget.
MYERS: Jerry Brown seems to have accepted that very little other than the budget will be on his agenda for the foreseeable future. But Brown seems, if not unfazed, undaunted.
BROWN: With realism, with confidence, with loyalty, in the deepest sense, to California, to my forbearers and to posterity as our song says: California here I come, right back where I started from.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
MYERS: For NPR News, I'm John Myers in Sacramento.
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