Jerry Brown Has to Prove He’s the Adult in Charge


The recent Field Poll showing Gov. Brown’s tax increase proposal ahead 54-38% fails to convey a critical underlying dynamic: the only way Brown is going to get his measure passed in November is to convince voters that there’s an adult in charge in Sacramento who’s going to spend their money wisely – or at least not blow it.

Here’s evidence: Overall, 64% of voters say California is on the wrong track compared to 26% who say it’s going in the right direction. Among those who say the state is on the right track, (the Field Poll tells Calbuzz) Brown’s measure leads hugely, 79-13%. But among those who say California is on the wrong track, it’s 45% yes versus 47% no.

Alternatively, of those who are supporting Brown’s measure, just 53% say the state is on the wrong track and 37% say it’s on the right track. But among those opposed to his proposal, 84% say the state’s on the wrong track and just 9% say it’s on the right track.

In other words, in order to keep his support – because ballot measures invariably lose standing over time as the undecideds make up their minds to vote no – Gov. Gandalf has to make the case that California (especially Sacramento) is getting better, stronger and smarter. And then to convince voters that he has a plan to get the budget under control and spend tax dollars wisely.

As Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll told us: “Brown needs more people to see the state moving in the right direction.”

It helps that independents are leaning 56-38% in favor of his measure and that middle-of-the-road voters lean 54-40% his way. But these are not great numbers, especially when nearly a third of likely voters said they’d be less likely to support Brown’s measure if the Legislature were to approve funds for high-speed rail (which they just did).

Who knows if Molly Munger (whose own tax-increase ballot measure is locked at 46-46%) will point to HSR as wasteful spending in order to tube Brown’s measure? With John Hein, formerly of the CTA, and Dean Tipps, formerly of SEIU, inexplicably running her campaign (and the rest of the labor movement vehemently on the other side), anything appears possible. But you can bet the Jon Coupal/Joel Fox/Jon Fleischman anti-tax jihadists will make the case.

As for his part, we hear Brown (who hasn’t done a compelling interview in ages) is hoping to avoid attacking Munger’s measure on the belief that a squabble between them (beyond the court case about their relative ballot positions) will inevitably hurt his own measure. And besides, if he wants to demonstrate that there’s a strong, steady hand on the tiller in Sacramento, it won’t do to get in a knife fight, even with a freelance buccaneeress.

On the other hand, maybe it’s time for Krusty the Governor to get over his utter astonishment that he vastly overestimated his ability to charm Republicans into working with him on the budget. And now he needs to show California that he actually does have the experience and know-how to make Sacramento work in some bipartisan way.

As one Sacramento consultant said to us yesterday, he doesn’t have to demonstrate that he’s ept, only that he’s not inept.

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There are 6 comments for this post

  1. avatar gery katona says:

    I find it hard to beleive those poll numbers. If correct, they reflect a poorly informed public. If the taxpayers understood they are on the hook for pension liabilities, they would demand reform before agreeing to pay more in taxes.

    • avatar Donald from Pasadena says:

      Any attempt to impose retroactive cuts will almost certainly bring about a lawsuit, and courts have repeatedly ruled, while you can enact pension reform prospectively, not retroactively.

  2. avatar tonyseton says:

    “And now he needs to show California that he actually does have the experience and know-how to make Sacramento work in some bipartisan way.”
    What’s he gonna do? Fake it?

  3. avatar Adelaides Lament says:

    Would I be safe in guessing that “Brown (who hasn’t done a compelling interview in ages)” could be translated to “hasn’t done an interview with CalBuzz in a LONG time”?
    President Obama did an interview today in which he said his biggest mistake was focusing on policy more than communication. In order to pass this tax increase, it’s high time for Governor Brown to make his case directly to the people – get out there and do more interviews…especially with folks like you guys.

  4. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Can’t disagree with the president, or with Adelaide. Reminds me of advice from Dr. Ruth. But true, nonetheless.

  5. avatar cheesendorf says:

    Below are detailed my reasons for not supporting Prop 30, I enumerate these because I know that many ardent Brown supporters will agree with most if not all of them.

    1. Staff: The Governor’s staff are extremely inexperienced in both legislative and budgetary affairs. They have made a mess of the both the 2011-2012 and the 2012-2013 budgets, which provide no long term solutions for state budget issues. They have failed to enumerate any long term structural changes to the ways that revenues are raised and spent in the state. Additionally they have made a mess of relatively simple budgetary/legislative issues such as the failed renewal of the public goods charge on electricity. The only person in the administration who has any budgetary experience is Ana Matosantos, who has presided over 4 budgets in 2 administration, none of which has done a thing to change the structural problems with revenue and expenditure in state goverment.

    2. Regressive and unreliable and temporary: The taxes that are proposed in Prop 30 are unsustainable and unfair. The tax on the wealthy, sounds good but ultimately is not a long term solution to smoothing out the revenue problems associated with ups and down associated with changes in the state’s economy. The sales tax, which of course raises the bulk of the money, is regressive and has the greatest effect on the pocket books of low and middle income citizens. Thirdly, this fix is only temporary and does absolutely nothing to effect a long term solution to the state’s budgeting problems. What we need, especially from a constitutional amendment, is a long term fix, not more band aids.

    3. Voters are the ones who vote: The Governor and his staff have spent most of the past year and a half lining up the support of unions and quelling the potential opposition of business groups. The Administration has yet to do anything compelling that voters of the state really care about. There are no compelling initiatives on any front, let alone on the budget that will make that average voter think that “these folks know what they are doing”. Lining up money for ad buys is all fine and good, but there have been several well funded initiatives recently which have either failed or barely squeaked by. What the Governor should have spent the past year plus doing is proving to the voters of the state of California that he is in charge and can make things happen and will wisely spend their money (instead of pandering stunts like taking cell phones away, or getting rid of retired annuitants). You can try to spend the next several months convincing people that the Governor will be a great steward of the state, but evidence to this point shows that is not the case.

    My belief is that if these issues are not substantively address in very short order (number 2 would need to be address by a suite of measures in the Legislature), that Prop 30 will fail and that the budget problems of state government will be worse than when the Governor took office.

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