So focused have I been on Wisconsin this past week that I put on the back burner a post I was planning on California, then when reading one of my favorite blogresses, caught this comment which almost perfectly summarized my views on Governor Jerry Brown’s first eight weeks back in the governor’s office after twenty-eight year away. Over at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin blogged about her conversation with Tea Party leader Mark Meckler:
On California he told me that he thinks Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is doing a far better job than his Republican predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “If anyone has a chance, [Brown] has a chance” to straighten out the state’s finances, he argued. But he remains skeptical. “I don’t know if he can separate himself from the unions.”
When I read that in “his first executive order as governor, Democrat Jerry Brown ordered state employees to return some 48,000 cell phones paid for by the state“, I wondered why, despite facing bloated state budgets, Arnold had never taken this step.* Nor did the Governator take steps to eliminate any number of the excesses that Brown has found — and seeks to eliminate.
That said, in going after these cuts, Brown is not looking at some of the structural problems in the state’s spending that need to be fixed. Like his counterpart in the Badger State, he needs to take on the compensation schemes for public employees. Here, I share Meckler’s skepticism; I don’t know either if he can take on the public employee unions.
Eccentric Jerry Brown may be, but dogmatic he is not (save perhaps on the environment). He didn’t, as I wrote last November, earn the nickname Moonbeam “for being a team-player“. He could surprise us on this one as he’s surprising us on spending. If Governor Brown realizes that the only way to cut the budget is to make public employees pay more for their benefits, he may well challenge their unions as well. Jerry Brown may be the only Democrat, the only politician perhaps, who has benefitted from those unions’ taxpayer-funded largesse who would dare defy their dictates.
*(Did he fear how it would look to have a Hollywood multimillionaire taking away cell phones from less well-off state employees?)