Gov. Jerry Brown told a Bay Area radio station that state legislators need to "man up" and make budget cuts to deal with an exploding deficit.
That's pure chutzpah -- coming from Brown, whose governorship has not exactly been distinguished by political courage.
Brown's supporters argue that he's shown courage in ending redevelopment agencies against hte opposition of local governments and proposing pension changes and budget cuts that many his own party don't much like, and that he's pursued high-speed rail even as the public has moved against it.
But they give him too much credit. His push against redevelopment agencies was backed by the education lobby, the most powerful force in Sacramento. Pension changes and budget cuts are politically necessary to convince voters to adopt more in taxes. And high-speed rail has the backing of many of the governor's most powerful backers in labor and business.
And on the big stuff, this is a governor who has punted.
This is a governor who ran for office on the less than courageous promise that he wouldn't raise anyone's taxes unless voters signed off on the increases. Brown could have "manned up" and sought a mandate for revenues. But that would have been a political risk. He didn't take it.
This is a governor who -- in the name of the sort of crackpot "realism" that dominates political thinking in Sacramento -- has refused to take on the difficult task of fixing the broken system.
This is a governor who has ruled out any change to Prop 13, making plain he thinks that's too politically dangerous. He's touted a "realignment" that does everything except real realignment, which would mean restoring to local officials the power to set local tax rates to fund the programs they provide.
This is a governor who claims he is fixing the state's long-term budget problems -- but then sponsors a ballot initiative that raises taxes only temporarily while making permanent changes to the state constitution.
Yes, it'd be hard as heck to fix California's broken budget and governing systems. Yes, there would be opposition. Yes, his poll ratings would go down. Yes, this is something a governor can't do alone. But this is a governor who has decided not to try -- while he and his allies label those who believe you fix something by fixing it as "unrealistic" dreamers and radicals.
The state legislature hasn't done this difficult work either. But lawmakers would be perfectly right to answer Brown's call by saying: You first, governor.