Local Lawmakers Respond To Brown, From Mexico Trade Mission To Budget - Brian W. Jones

Local Lawmakers Respond To Brown, From Mexico Trade Mission To Budget

SACRAMENTO — Lawmakers from the San Diego region had mixed reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address delivered Wednesday. Democrats mostly praised Brown, especially for his focus...

paying down the debt and commitment to priority programs. Republicans liked what they heard in terms of savings, but want to see even more put in the bank and criticized the governor for glossing over solutions to the drought.

Newly-elected Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, called Brown’s speech “telling it like it is.”

“The issue here is stability, with a hint of optimism of how we keep California moving in the right direction,” she said.

Atkins said Democrats support his call for a “rainy day” fund as a hedge against future downturns and to keep a rein on spending, even with a surplus built by the improved economy and temporary tax increases approved by voters.

“Will we be prudent together? We have to. We owe that to the voters who gave us an opportunity to have a little bit of breathing room while the economy rebounds. We have that obligation,” Atkins said.

Brown’s proposal to work with Mexico on climate change and other economic issues drew reaction.

Sen. Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democrat who has had meetings with Mexican officials on ways to strengthen ties and improve border crossings, said Brown’s proposed trip to Mexico sends a positive signal to both sides of the border.

“Mexico is California’s largest trading partner,” Hueso said.

But Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, said Brown is misdirected in proposing to stress climate change at a summit. “When you have work to do within your house, you do that work. When you have work on an international level, it’s totally appropriate for the (US) Secretary of State to deal with it,” Chavez said.

Chavez praised Brown for touching on pensions and public works. “That being said, I would like to pivot and say what was not stated. We didn’t hear anything about the (bullet) train and we didn’t hear ... a solution to the drought. We need specifics on the transmission of water and retention of water. The drought and energy are the issues that will drive the economy of California.”

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said she liked the governor’s stress on maintaining healthy reserves.

“One of the most significant things he said was we have to build for the future and not steal from the future,” she said.

But Weber is disappointed the governor did not dig deeper into the problems of poverty and did not adequately address crime prevention in his remarks concerning prison overcrowding.

Weber also said the governor discussed school funding aid, but she wants to make sure that the “achievement gap” among poor and non-English speaking students is closed by ensuring that those new state grants get to the schools and students. Local trustees also must be held accountable for improvements, Weber said.

Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, said Brown and Democrats should not be bragging when it comes to jobs and the budget. He said Democrat policies and taxes put California in the fiscal hole and are still making it difficult to climb out.

“From their failed “green energy” policies to their high-speed rail project, the Democrats continue to fritter away money on projects the state just cannot afford,” Jones said,

Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, said he wants to push for more emphasis on high-skill jobs training, but did not hear that fully explored in Brown’s speech.

“The Governor began his speech by celebrating the creation of one million new jobs in California. Unfortunately a skills gap exists that keeps many of these jobs vacant ... the supply of highly sought after, highly skilled workers has dried up in many parts of the state.”

Block said companies like Qualcomm in San Diego “have hundreds of jobs that they can’t fill with qualified Californians.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, cheered the governor’s overall message. “California has made tremendous progress with Gov. Brown and this Legislature at the helm,” she said. “It’s refreshing to see his vision going forward is to make California a more sustainable state, both in terms of the economy and the environment.”