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State Of The State: Brown Focuses On Environment, Legacy Projects In Final Address

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Thursday marks the final State of the State address for California Gov. Jerry Brown. He’s entering his record sixteenth and last year in office.

Check back here throughout the day as we'll be adding updates on Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address, including a transcript of the governor's remarks and analysis from Capital Public Radio reporters.

Listen Back To the State of the State 

Listen back to Capital Public Radio's full coverage of Gov. Jerry Brown's final State of The State address:
Or watch Gov. Brown's speech here: 

Capital Public Radio reporters annotated Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State speech. Take a look by clicking on the image below. 

012518Sammy Annotation

Gov. Brown Calls For Task Force Of Scientists And Forest Management Experts To Reduce Wildfire Threat

Steve Milne, Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown delivered his annual State of the State address Thurday morning. He called for a task force of scientists and forest management experts to find ways to reduce the wildfire threat in California.

"We have to be ready with the necessary fire fighting capability and the communication systems to warn residents of impending danger. We also have to manage our forests and our soils much more intelligently."

Some disaster victims have criticized state and local officials saying they failed to adequately notify residents of the risk of fierce wildfires in Northern California's wine country and of mudslides near Santa Barbara.

Brown also talked extensively about his efforts to fight climate change and his two pet projects: high-speed rail and the twin-tunnels to move water from northern California south.

This was Brown's final State of the State address. The 79-year-old Brown is entering his record 16th and last year in office. Brown first became governor in 1975, for two terms. Then two more in 2011.

Brown Defends High-Speed Rail And Twin-Tunnels Project In State Of The State 

Steve Milne, Capital Public Radio 

California Governor Jerry Brown defended two massive and much-scrutinized infrastructure projects in his annual State of the State address Thursday morning: high-speed rail and twin-tunnels to move northern California water south.

"I'm convinced that it will conserve water, protect the fish and the habitat in the Delta and insure the delivery of badly needed water to the millions of people who depend on California's aqueducts."

Brown's administration recently decided to consider one tunnel instead of two.

Brown also acknowledged that there are obstacles in his ambitious plan to build a high-speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The cost has skyrocketed since it was first proposed. But Brown said it would still be cheaper than expanding airports or building new freeways.

This was Brown's final State of the State address. The 79-year-old is entering his record 16th and last year in office. Brown first became governor in 1975, for two terms. Then two more in 2011.

Governor Gives Offers Pat On The Back For Obamacare Expansion

Sammy Caiola, Health Care Reporter

To the delight of California’s many Affordable Care Act supporters, Gov. Jerry Brown dedicated a small chunk of today’s State of the State address to the expansion of public health care programs.

Since the rollout of Obamacare, California has embraced the program by expanding eligibility for Medi-Cal and launching a robust health care marketplace, called Covered California. Since the expansion, 5 million Californians have enrolled in Medi-Cal and 1.3 million have joined the Covered California exchange, according to the UC Berkeley Labor Center and the California Health Care Foundation.

The governor said the continued success of our system is “dependent on tens of billions of federal dollars that would have been taken away by the Congress had the effort to ‘repeal and replace’ succeeded.” He also thanked Republican senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins for protecting the health care of tens of millions during that battle last year.

The governor did not acknowledge the gap in health care for undocumented immigrants, the consistent federal threats to reproductive health care services or the recent push for a single payer system.

A Call To Do Better In Criminal Justice

Sammy Caiola, Health Care Reporter

The governor took a few moments during his speech to confront problems within the criminal justice system, including the need for more mental health and drug rehabilitation services.

This is Brown’s second call in recent months to improve health services in criminal justice. His recent budget proposal allocates $3.1 billion to mental, dental and medical care for inmates and increases the number of mental health crisis beds, particularly for women. It also shifts focus to rehabilitation and reintegration after incarceration.

A recent state audit found that inmate suicides are being improperly handled by California State Prisons. The average suicide rate in California is higher than the national average, and suicide numbers have been on the rise in California women’s prisons in particular.

Governor Brown Focuses On Preserving His Environmental Legacy

Ezra David Romero, Environment Reporter

Gov. Jerry Brown’s sixteenth State of the State focused heavily on environmental challenges and his plans to address them. Or, as he put it: “We can’t fight nature. We have to learn how to get along with her.”

The governor pointed out that there’s “no long-term precedent” when it comes to the impact 40 million people can have on California’s ecosystem. He used the devastating Southern California Thomas Fire — and the mudslides that followed — as an example of why better forest management is necessary. To suggest ways to decrease the threat of larger wildfires, he mentioned he’s putting together a task force of scientists and forest practitioners.

Brown says the health of trees and soil are a huge part of the answer. “Trees in California should absorb CO2, not generate huge amounts of black carbon and greenhouse gas as they do today when forest fires rage across the land,” he said.

And Brown says he plans to continue to establish California as a state that works to combat climate change, stating “action must be taken to avert catastrophic changes in our weather systems.”

The major hurdle Brown alluded to in the climate change fight? “All nations agree [that climate change is happening] except one and that is solely because of one man: our current president,” the governor said.

Brown also hinted that his administration will soon release a plan to spend funds created by cap-and-trade auctions.

“The goal is to make our neighborhoods and farms healthier, our vehicles cleaner — zero emission the sooner the better — and all our technologies increasingly lowering their carbon output,” Brown said.

To meet the state’s 2020 goal of 50 percent of energy coming from renewables, he says there will need to be at least 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. “Think of all the jobs that will create and how much cleaner our air will be.”

Part of the cap-and-trade funding is allocated for clean water and air quality measures at the neighborhood level. The California Air Resources Board is working with communities across the state on neighborhood air-quality projects. Individuals can now use hand-held devices to track air quality from their homes. The goal is to figure out where local sources of pollution are coming from to better inform the people that live in these communities.

“Instead of just measuring pollutants over vast swaths of land, regulators will zero in on those communities which are particularly disadvantaged by trains, trucks or factories,” Brown said.

Brown again touted his plan for a twin-tunnels project that, if completed, will transport more Northern California water to Southern California.

“I am convinced that it will conserve water, protect the fish and the habitat in the Delta and ensure the delivery of badly needed water to the millions of people who depend on California’s aqueducts,” Brown said.  

But California WaterFix is far from being funded. The contentious twin-tunnels project could be reduced to a single tunnel due to problems in securing funding. In September, the Westlands Water District — representing a key group of valley farmers — voted not to help pay for the project, due to concerns of costs to farmers. But Brown says it wasn’t a fatal blow.

Since, several other water agencies voted against the project. And early this month, rumors of a plan for a single tunnel project surfaced when the Department of Water Resources asked state builders vying for the project to submit proposals on a scaled down project. Still, California water officials say the state has not made a final decision on reducing the size of the project.

The Sound Of Jerry Brown Through The Years

Gov. Jerry Brown has been very quotable over his years in California politics. Insight Producer Chris Remington pulled some favorite bites from Brown's time as governor in the 1970s, his campaign for president and his current stint as governor of California.

Governor Brown Likely To Shift Focus From Trump To California In Final State Of The State Address

Thursday marks the final State of the State address for California Gov. Jerry Brown. He’s entering his record sixteenth and last year in office.

Brown is expected to strike a different tone than last year, when he spoke just four days after the inauguration of President Trump.

In that speech, he called for “courage and perseverance” and ended by quoting “This Land Is Your Land” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

This year, we’ll likely hear Brown focus less on Washington and more on California — how the state he has led through four terms in office has evolved since he first became governor in 1975.

In addition to his usual calls for fiscal caution, he’ll also talk about the state’s criminal justice system and a subject near and dear to his heart, climate change.

You can listen to Brown’s final State of the State address at 10 a.m. today on Capital Public Radio. And join us at 9 a.m. for a special broadcast looking back at Brown’s four terms as California governor.

You'll find our archive of the last 15 California State of the State addresses here.

For full coverage of the governor's speech, follow our team on Twitter:


Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

Steve Milne

Morning Edition Anchor & Reporter

Steve is the Morning Edition anchor for Capital Public Radio. He covers stories on a wide range of topics including: business, education, real estate, agriculture and music.  Read Full Bio 

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