SACRAMENTO – California Gov. Jerry Brown will give his State of the State speech to the Legislature Wednesday morning, then immediately hit the road.
Brown’s two-day swing through Southern California comes as he prepares for a November ballot initiative to raise taxes, and it points to his shifting focus from the Legislature to the electorate.
Only a year ago, Brown was cloistered in tax talks with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol, ultimately unsuccessfully.
“Now it’s all about trying to get voters and various interest groups to try to get some enthusiasm around his tax initiative,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California. “It’s different. It’s definitely different from where he started out a year ago.”
The major elements of Brown’s agenda for the year have been clear for months. They include his initiative to raise taxes and two controversial infrastructure-related efforts _ approving construction of high-speed rail and proposing a peripheral canal or other conveyance to move water through or around the Delta.
Brown declined last week to preview his speech in any detail, saying only, “You’re going to hear so much that I wouldn’t miss it if I were you.”
The address, to a joint session of the Legislature, is significant for the attention it commands.
“It’s the one time the entire press corps, the Legislature, the talking heads are all focused on what you are saying and what you are laying out,” said Adam Mendelsohn, a political adviser to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “It’s really a unique opportunity to totally occupy all of the media and messaging.”
Of course, Brown’s speech itself might not reach many viewers, starting as it does at 10 a.m. Brown spoke in the evening last year, but he sometimes delivered State of the State addresses in the mornings when he was governor before. By speaking in the morning and appearing in Los Angeles the same day, Mendelsohn said, Brown increases his chances of leading the 5 p.m. news in that city, the state’s richest media market.
After his speech, Brown will fly to Los Angeles to speak at City Hall, then meet with teachers in Burbank. He will meet with business leaders in Irvine on Thursday morning and speak in San Diego that afternoon.
It is an unusually full trip for a governor who hasn’t traveled much since taking office. Last year, it wasn’t until February that Brown made his first public appearance outside Sacramento, speaking at a business event in Los Angeles.
“There are a lot of people in California, and many of our citizens live in places other than our fine capitol city,” Brown spokesman Gil Duran said. “So the governor will be going to different parts of the state to discuss the challenges and the possibilities that face us.”
His travel appears to have been hastily arranged. George Mitrovich, president of The City Club of San Diego, said Brown called him at 3 p.m. on Friday to arrange the speech.
“I guess he feels there’s a need to be seen outside of Sacramento,” Mitrovich said, “and that’s a judgment I agree with.”
Brown is likely to encounter skeptical audiences in the more conservative areas of Orange and San Diego counties, but, Mitrovich said, “I still believe that if you challenge people, people will respond, and (Brown) has the ability to do that.”
Brown is coming into the second year of his third term with a middling public approval rating but majority support for his proposal to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California’s highest-earners, according to a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll.
His effort to clear competing tax-related measures from the ballot got a lift on Tuesday, when a bipartisan group backed by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen announced it has abandoned plans to seek to qualify a tax measure for the 2012 ballot.
The Think Long Committee for California said it will postpone its ballot qualification efforts until 2014.
“Consistent with our collective view that California needs to think, plan and act for the long term, we’ve been guided by the cardinal rule that it is far more important to get our reforms done ‘right’ than ‘right away,’ ” the committee said in a statement.