"California has once again confounded our critics," he said. "We've wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget. And by God, we're going to preserve and keep it that way for years to come."
In a wide-ranging and, at times, seemingly rushed 24-minute address to a joint session of the Legislature, the Democratic governor credited lawmakers for casting "difficult votes to cut billions from the state budget," and he praised voters for approving Proposition 30, Brown's November measure to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.
"Two years ago, they were writing our obituary," Brown said. "Well, it didn't happen. California is back, its budget is balanced and we are on the move."
Still, the governor who famously declared in his 1976 State of the State address that California was "entering an era of limits" also cautioned lawmakers to "guard jealously the money temporarily made available" by Proposition 30.
"This means living within our means and not spending what we don't have," he said. "Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our good intentions, but the basis for realizing them. It's cruel to lead people on by expanding good programs, only to cut them, cut them back when the funding disappears."
He said the "stop and go, boom and bust, serves no one. We are not going back there."
Brown restated his commitment to California's $68 billion high-speed rail project and to his controversial plan to build a pair of tunnels to move water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the south.
"Yes, it's bold," Brown said of the rail project. "But so is everything about California."
Brown said little new in his address. He called for a special session of the Legislature to prepare for the national health care overhaul, as he announced last year that he would do. Brown also said the trade mission he announced last year to China will happen in April. Brown is seeking to open a privately financed trade office in Shanghai. California has not had an official presence in China since 2003, when the state disbanded its foreign trade offices.
He also urged lawmakers again to modify California's signature environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, and to embrace his proposed overhaul of the state's K-12 funding system to give more money to districts with poorer students.
Brown is in a politically favorable position halfway through his third term. His address to a joint session of the Legislature this morning follows the November passage of his ballot initiative to raise taxes and the release of a budget plan this month in which Brown declared an era of state deficits over.
The annual speech is significant for the media attention it commands, though the early morning timing may limit viewership. Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, delivered his address in the evening in his first year back at the Capitol, in 2011, but he spoke in the morning last year.
The Democratic governor writes speeches himself, and his office said he was working on it over the weekend and this week. He was seen in the Capitol basement this morning going over his address.
Lasting more than 24 minutes, it was one of Brown's longer speeches.