Brown's Visionary Side Emerges

Steve Harmon - San Jose Mercury News

 SACRAMENTO -- The two sides of Gov. Jerry Brown's political persona have come into clear view this month. Two weeks ago, it was the austere and pragmatic Brown, as he released his slash-away state budget.

But on Wednesday, during his State of the State address in the Assembly chamber, he gave a glimpse of his idealistic, visionary side, providing a full-throated defense of California's high-speed rail plan despite the pummeling it's taken in recent months.

Brown took on critics in his most forceful language to date, noting that naysayers have been wrong about some of the great infrastructure projects of the past.

"The Central Valley Water Project was called a 'fantastic dream' that 'will not work,' " he said. "The master plan for the interstate highway system in 1939 was derided as 'New Deal jitterbug economics.' In 1966, then-Mayor (Wallace) Johnson of Berkeley called BART a 'billion-dollar potential fiasco.'

"Similarly, the Panama Canal was for years thought to be impractical, and Benjamin Disraeli himself said of the Suez Canal: 'Totally impossible to be carried out.' The critics were wrong then, and they're wrong now.''

Brown, in his second State of the State address since returning as governor after a 28-year hiatus, also urged the Legislature to tackle other momentous changes such as pension reform and a new water-infrastructure project. And he made his case for new taxes while insisting that additional budget cuts are necessary.

A blend of the tough, the unpopular and the lofty are what's needed to build "confidence in California as a place to invest and realize one's dreams," he said.

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