California governor speech comes amid shifting politics

Source: BY JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press • Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jerry Brown is coming off a blockbuster year of liberal wins: He secured an extension of landmark climate change legislation, signed off on an increase in California’s minimum wage, expanded family leave laws, toughened gun laws, and persuaded voters to both soften sentencing laws and reject a ballot measure that would have threatened two of his legacy projects.

To top it all off, rains are finally flowing in California after years of drought.

Yet Brown delivers his State of the State address Tuesday facing far more precarious circumstances than a year ago, largely due to circumstances beyond his control.

The election of President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress has upended the order for California Democrats, who have pursued aggressive greenhouse gas-reduction policies that had backing from the previous administration. The state also embraced the federal health care law and has committed billions to expanding Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor.

This time Brown is projecting a $1.6 billion deficit and proposing $3 billion in spending cuts, largely to social programs that his fellow Democrats support, and he faces a Republican president who has vowed to undo much of his liberal agenda. The fate of the state’s plan to roll back carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 relies on people who may not believe in the science of climate change, but California intends to fight back, Brown said in a speech earlier this month to the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

“We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers and we’re ready to fight,” Brown said.

To drive home the point, the Brown administration sent a new version of the plan just minutes after Trump’s inauguration Friday, and Brown could choose Tuesday’s address to expand on how California will confront the Trump administration on climate and other issues. The state Senate a day earlier confirmed Brown’s nominee for state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, a Southern California congressman who has vowed to defend minorities against policies he sees as regressive. Brown will swear in Becerra Tuesday before his address.