SACRAMENTO — For a politician who winces at the L-word — “legacy” — Gov. Jerry Brown spent much of his State of the State address on Thursday defending the key projects and policies that will likely define his: the state’s beleaguered bullet train, his Delta tunnel plan and criminal justice reforms reducing California’s prison population. And he vowed to fight for the state’s controversial gas tax hike as a campaign to repeal it heats up.
“California is setting the pace for the entire nation,” Brown said in his 16th and final State of the State speech.
“Yes, there are critics, there are lawsuits — lots of them — and there are countless obstacles,” he said of the high-speed rail project, “but California was built on dreams and perseverance, and the bolder path is still our way forward.”
The speech came off at times as a muted victory lap for Brown, a fixture on California’s political scene for almost a half-century.
California was still in economic free-fall from the Great Recession when he was inaugurated in January 2011, and the state’s budget deficit was $27 billion. Brown’s final budget, which he released earlier this month, features a $6.1 billion surplus. The state’s unemployment rate is at 4.3 percent, a record low and a steep drop from the 12 percent Brown inherited.