Gov. Jerry Brown defended his plan to raise taxes in his State of the State address this morning, the second of his third term, depicting California as a place of opportunity ripe for investment in high-speed rail, water infrastructure and schools.
"California is on the mend," he said.
Brown called his ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest-earners "fair," and he suggested, as he has for weeks, that schools would suffer if higher taxes aren't approved.
"Given the cutbacks to education in recent years, it is imperative that California devote more tax dollars to this most basic of public services," he said to applause. "If we are successful in passing the temporary taxes I have proposed and the economy continues to expand, schools will be in a much stronger position."
He reiterated his support for California's beleaguered high-speed rail project, urging a skeptical Legislature to approve the start of construction in the Central Valley this fall. He called it a "wise investment" for a growing state.
He is also expected this year to propose a peripheral canal or other way to move water through or around the Delta. In his speech, he called it an "enormous project" and a "huge issue we must tackle."
Brown also called for less state testing in public schools, and for changes to the school's categorical funding system.
Brown's address this morning lasted about 20 minutes. The 73-year-old governor spoke for 14 minutes, 23 seconds last year.
The content of his speech was also wider ranging than last year - when Brown focused almost exclusively on the budget - more reminiscent of State of the State speeches Brown gave during his first two terms, from 1975 to 1983.
Brown planned immediately after the speech to leave the Capitol for Los Angeles, starting a two-day swing through media-rich Southern California. He will speak at Los Angeles City Hall and meet with teachers in Burbank this afternoon, before events in Irvine and San Diego on Thursday.
The trip is a departure for Brown, who traveled infrequently last year. He was trying during the time of last year's State of the State address - and for months after - to negotiate a tax deal with Republicans in the Legislature, and he spent most of his time in meetings at the Capitol. But those talks failed, and Brown is turning directly this year to the electorate with a ballot initiative to raise taxes. He is expected to campaign throughout the state ahead of the November election.
The reaction of Republicans could have been predicted before Brown even spoke. Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway criticized it in a response video mistakenly posted online Tuesday, hours ahead of time.
"Today Governor Brown shared his vision for California for the year ahead," she said in the video. "Republicans were eager to hear his ideas for the many challenges facing our state. Unfortunately, the governor's vision is centered around one thing: higher taxes."
Brown chastised Conway and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff at the beginning of his speech.
"I noticed that Connie and Mr. Huff put out their critique of my speech 24 hours ago," he said. "My speech wasn't finished 24 hours ago."