Governor Brown Delivers Final State of the State Address

On Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown delivered his sixteenth and final State of the State Address at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Brown’s address was largely optimistic and highlighted the state’s unprecedented economic growth, cap-and-trade program, pension overhaul reforms, and bipartisan solutions to transportation and infrastructure funding. By nearly all measures, Brown declared that California is prospering and detailed a path for the state to continue its progress.

However, Brown issued a stern warning about persistent threats to the state on a global scale by declaring, “Our world, our way of life, our system of governance – all are at immediate and genuine risk.” Brown cautioned against new weapons systems, antagonism among countries, partisan divisiveness, and climate change and called “for courage, for imagination, and for generous dialogue” in addressing these threats.

Related to health, Brown briefly included in his address a mention of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the expansion of health-related programs. Declaring that California has “boldly embraced” the ACA, Brown highlighted the 5 million increase in enrollment in Medi-Cal and the 1.3 million increase in enrollment in the Covered California exchanges that has occurred since the rollout of ACA.

Brown stressed the dependency of the state’s health care system on “tens of billions of federal dollars” and Congress’ continued threats to repeal and replace current law. By name, Brown thanked U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Arizona), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) for voting against the ACA repeal measure and protecting healthcare for millions of Americans last year. Brown did not address ongoing conversations related to health coverage and access, including the recent push for universal, single-payer health coverage in California.

A significant amount of Brown’s address was dedicated to environmental- and climate change-related issues, including the state’s cap-and-trade program, energy efficiency standards, zero-emissions vehicles, and disproportionate environmental impacts on disadvantaged communities. He also defended transportation-related projects, including the high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Brown emphatically thanked first responders and firefighters in their response activities related to the Northern and Southern California wildfires and recent mud and debris slides in Southern California. He discussed at length the state’s firefighting and emergency communications capabilities and the need to reassess and prepare for future natural disasters. In his final year in office, Brown will be assembling a task force of scientists and forest management experts to determine strategies to reduce the risk of wildfires in the state.

During his address, Brown also took a moment to request that the Legislature take time to more deeply consider and understand the criminal justice system, including the need for more health and drug rehabilitation services, before enacting new laws based on individual crimes and media coverage.

As he ended his final State of the State Address to a standing ovation, Brown reiterated his commitment to ensuring California continues on its progressive path during his final year of office.