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Gov. Brown visits O.C. Business Council

California's governor pitches new budget, tax hikes to Orange County’s business leaders

By Steve ChurmPublished: January 20, 2012 02:05 PM

Less than 24 hours after unveiling an ambitious plan to slash California’s budget deficit and restore public infrastructure, Gov. Jerry Brown was in Orange County today to sell his mix of spending cuts and tax hikes to business executives and conservatives who are key to his plans ultimately winning approval.

Looking fit and energetic and clearly in a campaign mode, Brown spent an hour behind closed doors with board members of the Orange County Business Council in Irvine before holding a 30-minute press conference to pitch his plan to dig California out of a deep financial hole and keep the Golden State “on the mend.”

Today, Brown repeated the message that he delivered to a joint session of the Legislature in his State of the State speech in the capital on Wednesday, when he called for more spending reductions to complete the “unfinished business” of closing a $9.2 billion budget gap. He also argued that spending cuts would ultimately position the state to invest again in rebuilding California’s massive public infrastructure, from roads to levies and canals and, ultimately, mass transit, in order to move goods and labor and faster.

Brown also told the private gathering of business leaders that the tax increases he hopes to put before voters this year would be fair, temporary and “half of what people were paying in 2010.” A year ago, he failed to persuade Republicans in the Legislature to support such a move. This time around, he plans to take his tax hikes straight to voters and bypass lawmakers. He estimates that his proposed ballot measure, which qualified for petition circulation Wednesday, would generate between $5 billion and $7 billion annually by raising levies on sales and upper incomes.

Acknowledging opposition on pension reform, classroom and teacher cuts and increased transit spending, Brown said, “there are so many dragons to slay. But I am a dragon slayer and I am up to the task.” Referencing his age of 73 several times, he said he is the “right governor” because he does not have further political aspirations.

“California is coming back from the worst recession since the Great Depression,” he said. “But we have to finish the job. We have make cuts and investments to keep this state moving forward.”

Following the governor’s press conference, Orange County Business Council President and CEO Lucy Dunn offered the support of the largely conservative council for Gov. Brown’s plans for government employee pension reform, business growth and regulatory relief, saying that Orange County is a fitting place for Gov. Brown to open a dialogue with businesses on how to restore the state’s economy.

“OCBC applauds Governor Brown’s leadership. To get California moving again requires financial sacrifices and a growing economy for more revenue to help all ships rise with the tide – it requires structural reforms and investment in California’s future. Needed now more than ever is a bipartisan approach toward a more business-friendly climate – where business has the confidence to grow and hire. Governor Brown understands the complexity of the challenges facing California, and California needs leaders who won’t just kick the can down the road, but who tackle these issues head-on. This governor is doing just that.”

OC METRO Web Editor Caitlin Adams contributed to this report.

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