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Optimistic State of the State address expected from governor

Brown's message is expected to be ambitious now that new tax revenue frees him to shift from patching holes in California's finances to a longer-term vision.

January 23, 2013|By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
  • California Gov. Jerry Brown heads into the second half of his term with more sway over the Legislature than any governor has had in years.
California Gov. Jerry Brown heads into the second half of his term with more… (Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver a State of the State address Thursday morning that lays out an ambitious and optimistic policy agenda for a state he says is on the rebound.

After persuading voters to erase much of California's budget deficit with billions of dollars in new taxes, Brown is free to shift his focus from patching holes in the government's finances to a longer-term vision.

He is expected to expand on his plans for shaking up public universities, shoring up water systems and boosting the state's international trade.

The governor may also renew his call for changes in the landmark California Environmental Quality Act, which business interests say inhibits growth with onerous requirements.

And he may reiterate his warning to fellow Democrats that the state's improved finances are not an invitation to spend freely.

Democratic lawmakers hold historic supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, and some have expressed eagerness to fund new programs or to restore the billions of dollars in state services that have been cut out in recent years.

But Brown heads into the second half of his term with more sway over the Legislature than any governor has had in years. His ballot measure to raise taxes amounted to a vote of confidence from the public. And lawmakers are indebted to him for freeing them from having to make deeper cuts in state programs.

Brown's "political capital has never been higher," said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A. "And he's not being bashful about tackling things that mean a lot to him."

The address, at 9 a.m., will be broadcast live by KABC-TV Channel 7 in Los Angeles and on KPCC-FM (89.3) radio. It can be seen online at http://www.calchannel.com.

Brown's speech is expected to highlight what has become a trademark over the last two years: simultaneously calling for budget austerity while laying out a vision that would eventually cost billions.

He wants, for example, to build two massive tunnels to move water from the northern half of the state to Southern California, and supports the state's controversial high-speed rail program.

Brown is also expected to turn his attention back to items that were put on hold last year as he focused on his tax-hike proposal. Brown plans to go to China in the spring, a trip he has talked of making since early last year. The state reopened a trade office in Shanghai last fall.

"The goal will be to increase exports from California companies to China and to bring Chinese business and investment to California," said John Grubb, spokesman for the Bay Area Council, a business group raising money for the governor's trip.

"There's no better way to do that," Grubb said, "than actually meet with people face to face."

anthony.york@latimes.com

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