Gov. Jerry Brown is among nine public officials nationwide honored as the year’s most outstanding leaders in state and local government by GOVERNING magazine.
Not that long ago, people were questioning whether California could be governed. The state faced multibillion-dollar shortfalls every year, leading to questions about whether California would go broke before Greece. In terms of dysfunction, Sacramento appeared to have beaten even Washington.
Then Jerry Brown returned as governor. When he took office in 2011, the state was $26 billion short. This year, lawmakers were fighting about what to do with a surplus. Much of that had to do with the state’s rising economy, but Brown had helped put the state back on a sustainable course.
In 2012, he convinced voters to raise sales and income taxes. Since then, he has managed to curb the impulse legislators have to spend money as fast or faster than it’s coming in, using his veto power freely and instead diverting the money to the state’s rainy day fund. “His ability to follow through on his promise to voters that he was going to stabilize the financial situation, which every year had been a problem, has made all the difference in the world,” says Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California.
GOVERNING’s profile also praised Brown’s work on benefits and rights for undocumented immigrants, higher education funding, climate change, and combating the state’s historic drought.
“We’re thrilled to be recognizing such remarkable officials,” GOVERNING Executive Editor Zach Patton said in a news release. “These outstanding men and women are tremendous examples of the power of public service, especially at the state and local level.”
“We are all too aware of the daunting challenges facing many of our states and localities and the people who live in them,” said GOVERNING Publisher Mark Funkhouser. “But this year’s award recipients inspire me with great optimism, showing how determined leadership can address even the steepest challenges.”