Jerry Brown Stays the Course, Wins

Lesson number one in media training is "stay on message."

No one knows that better than California Governor Jerry Brown, and his ability to stay on message may be finally paying off with respect to bringing California's beleaguered budget into balance.

Almost everything Brown has said or done this past year about the budget has been with a focus on finding the right combination of cuts and revenue increases.

Last spring and summer, he demanded and received several billions of dollars in painful cuts from the legislature to public education, welfare, and social services programs.

Liberals winced and conservatives rejoiced, but most of all Brown established credentials with moderates.

Using the powers of his office, Brown strengthened his message by recalling thousands of cell phones and selling off state cars as surplus property.

These symbolic changes may not have made much of a dent with the state's budget, but they scored points with the public.

With state revenues failing to meet unrealistic projections, Brown next fulfilled his promise to cut spending further in an effort to keep the budget in line.

The public may not like it, but people get the point: no more fudging on the numbers.

Now, all of Brown's efforts may be about to generate some reward.

The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll shows that the public is ready to commit to Brown's statewide ballot measure asking for higher taxes--this in spite of a lagging economy.

And why?

Because Brown systematically and methodically has brought home the point.

He's earned the public's respect.

If there's a loser in this Odyssey, it's the legislative Republicans. Over and over again, Brown attempted to strike a deal whereby the legislature would ask the voters to consider temporary tax increases last fall when the pain might have been less.

No deal was consummated. It doesn't matter whether Brown or the Republicans were at fault. The bottom line is that the public now sees Brown as the reasonable, thoughtful leader and legislative Republicans as irresponsible budget managers.

Brown's not out of the woods yet.

He has to find a way to keep competing revenue increase propositions off the November ballot, where his proposal will appear. He also has to continue to stay on message; the public can not be reminded enough of the state's desperation and the opportunity for repair.

Moreover, he can't overplay his hand with any unnecessary bravado or finger-pointing.

But in a state known for taxpayer penury, Brown is closer to closing the deal than anyone would have imagined a few months ago.

Meanwhile, as the pivotal election year begins, Brown must bear one thing in mind: stay on message. If he does, there's a better than even chance that Californians will get on board with him.

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