Interview with California Governor Jerry Brown

Interview with California Governor Jerry Brown

By State of the Union - September 9, 2012

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley and this is State of the Union.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown sat out this year's convention, he was back home grappling with his massive state budget, a $16 billion deficit forced Brown to cut back what he'd rather not: pensions for public workers, aid to education, and aid to the elderly.

This fall the governor wants voters to approve a tax hike for the wealthy and an increase in the sales tax. The outcome could have implications for spending mettles in Washington and state capitals across the country.

Joining me is California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

Governor Brown, thank you so much for joining us. Let's talk a little bit about where we are as the fall campaign begins. We just got another pretty lackluster jobs report. It was a lot lower of the job creation than folks thought it would be, can President Obama lose this election?

BROWN: Well, obviously, anybody can lose or win an election. These things are not absolutely determined, and this is a close election. But I would say that the contrast of the difference is reasonably clear. Romney almost reminds me of Thomas Dewey and I was rather young, but I remember that campaign, and he symbolized the wealthy east and then Truman was fighting more for the common man. Now I am not trying to compare Obama with Truman, but I do think he represents and he expresses more of the ordinary American and the struggles that the ordinary American is going through, and his plan of focusing on the jobs and investment and building things like roads and bridges contrasts with Romney, who if you look at his jobs plan, is essentially lower the taxes on the rich even further, despite the fact that the wealthy have doubled their share of the American income over the last 30 years...

CROWLEY: But what I wanted to talk to you about is when you looked over the course of the three days of the Democratic Convention, did you hear a compelling case for why the next four years would create a better job production, if you will, than the first four years?

BROWN: I look at this thing in a contrast and since I have been not only run for president, but have been a governor, you know, I'm now in the tenth year, finishing my tenth year, so I know about this story about jobs. Jobs are a function of many things: the world economy, monetary policies, taxation, investments -- all sorts of things.

What I heard at the Republican Party is mostly bashing the president and talking about how they are going to, you know, lower taxes which is primarily going to help the very wealthiest. Now when I heard President Clinton, with President Obama, with Michelle, a real commitment to build the stuff that makes America. We are not going to just by giving somebody a tax break that they can invest in Macao or China or the Cayman Islands, that's different than investing in more teachers and more policemen or high speed rail or the kind of things that takes government.

And yes, government does need some revenue.

So I do think in terms of the jobs that are going to put Americans to work, I heard a difference between the Democratic Convention and the Republicans.

CROWLEY: But did you hear within the Democratic Convention, is my question, within the Democratic Convention, did you hear a compelling case for why Americans should believe that the second four years will somehow produce more jobs than the first four years? BROWN: Well, maybe I know too much about this stuff, but we are in a recovery, a slow recovery, and it will keep recovering with any luck. And if the Republicans would get out of the way and let, you know, the stimulus and the investment go forward such as the Democrats have proposed, we'll be better off.

The opposite is to take -- have faith in this supply-side stuff where you lower the taxes on those doing very well. And they always say it will be on everybody, but it's always disproportionate on those who have the capital.

But I'm telling you that money where a lot of these corporate profits go now is offshore. And the biggest bang is to invest in our teachers, you know, in ordinary workers and bridges and roads, in the kind of projects that -- and I think that is the theme.

Now I'm not looking for a blueprint or some kind of a recipe, it is thematic, that's the way elections are decided both how do you feel about the two candidates and what is the theme. And I say the theme is a very honest guy who is trying to do his best after picking up a horrible mess from the last guy.

CROWLEY: That is certainly was also the theme of the Democratic Convention.

Let me talk to you a little bit about tax hikes. You have put on the ballot Proposition 30 coming up where you want to increase the sales tax as well as increase the taxes for those in the upper incomes, and the very top as I understand it, California at this point is in the top three states in terms of state income tax. It has the highest state sales tax in the country, and yet there is still this deficit.

So, doesn't -- doesn't it sort of play into the Republican's argument that raising taxes does not spur the economy?

BROWN: Well, here's what it does. And this is just math now. If the people vote no, which they certainly can, then there is going to be automatically cut $5.5 billion from the schools and community colleges, that is three weeks of school, and it will take half a billion from our colleges, that's automatic.

We have cut Medi-Cal, we've cut prisons almost 20 percent. That's the only thing left.

So it's just a choice do you move money from the very top of the income bracket and put it in schools and colleges or do you really take from the schools and the colleges?

I know that we are a high tax state, but that's happened under Ronald Reagan, it's happened under father, it's happened Schwarzenegger, it's gone a long time. Remember California has created almost twice as many jobs at twice the rate of the country as a whole. So we are a real engine out here in terms of Silicon Valley and Apple and Hewlett-Packard and all the things we're doing. So it's really a choice. And that's really the wonderful thing about our initiative. At the end of the day, vox populi, vox dei, the voice of the people -- as they say the voice of god. It's take the money from those who have more than we can imagine and give it to our schools or not. And whatever it is, I will manage it, and we will make it work. One way would be better, but whatever the way the people decide is the way we will go and that is the way it should be.


Let me -- I might not be asking this precisely, so yes, California has faced deficit problems before you. It has been a money problems before you and I guess my point is if you are looking at a state that already has the highest state sales tax of any in the country, that is in the top three of the state income taxes, and you want the raise it again, isn't the fact that you have had these deficits to contend with show that you are not growing the economy with sales hikes which is essentially, sales tax hikes or income tax hikes which is what the Republicans are arguing that they are counterproductive to the economy?

BROWN: Well, no, it is the opposite, because the economy is doing better than the rest of the nation. And even states like New Jersey where they are talking about cutting taxes or some of the other states, California is actually doing better. We are getting more than 50 percent of the new venture capital investment, we are getting more than half of the investment in new renewable energy projects so we are not perfect...

CROWLEY: How come you are so in debt?

BROWN: How come we are so in debt? Because the people before I got here cut our car tax by almost $6 billion, gave a huge tax breaks to out of state corporations which is another billion and they didn't cut expenditures. I have now cut, when you talk about cuts, this is not pretty. The blind, the disable, Medi-Cal, the prisons, you name it we have reduced. It's ongoing of $15 billion a year.

Now if the people think that we need to cut even more, we will. But I am telling you as a guy who has been around for 40 years, what I am proposing on balance makes more sense.

CROWLEY: Two quick question, one is what should we make of the kind of feud that's going on between you and Governor Christie?

BROWN: Well, I wouldn't say it is a feud. He basically just was warming up -- you know, throwing some red meat to the Republicans from California. So he said I was a retread.

BROWN: And he was 14 when I was running against Jimmy Carter back in the New Jersey primary in 1976.

And ergo...

CROWLEY: Essentially saying you're...

BROWN: ... I shouldn't be here.


BROWN: Yeah, I'm old -- yeah, well I'm 74, I'll be 74 1/2 next month. And -- but here I am.

You know, there is some experience, hopefully there's some wisdom. So I've got kind of warmed in speeches, I said, OK Christie, I challenge you to a three mile race, try some chin ups, maybe some pushups.

CROWLEY: Essentially saying that he's overweight.

BROWN: No, essentially, he says this old retread could beat you any day of the week.

CROWLEY: OK. And finally, do (inaudible) governorship to run again?

BROWN: Well, I'm not slowing down, so I don't want to predict where I'll be because we have a lot of -- a lot of pitfalls potential over the next year or two but I -- I think as Obama says we're fired up and ready to go.

CROWLEY: You sound like a governor. Thank you so much for taking the time this morning, I appreciate it.

BROWN: OK, thank you. 

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