Translating Jerry Brown: “You cut the good, which in many respects is a bad.”

Guv Jerry Brown eschewed the national spotlight for most of the first two years of Jerry 2.0. It’s The New Jerry Thing. But he’s is taking a victory lap of sorts Tuesday night on the PBS NewsHour, talking up how he balanced California’s budget. “It’s fixed,” he tells PBS NewsHour correspondent and producer Spencer Michels, in an interview scheduled to air Tuesday.

Well, yes, “fixed,” except for those unfunded teachers’ pension obligations estimated to be $64.5 billlllllllllllion over 30 years. And healthcare for retires is clocking in at nearly that much. Or as nonpartisan Legislative analyst Mac Taylor put it, he is surely worried about how the budget is not “addressing huge unfunded
liabilities associated with the teachers’ retirement
system and state retiree health benefits.” Still, he gave Brown solid marks for his fiscal discipline.

The PBS chat airing Tuesday covered much of that, as Brown talked up his budget cutting. In the transcript we just snagged, Michels pressed Jerry’s buttons when he asked “You sound, though, almost dismissive of people who are poor and people who need the state’s help and all kinds of things that have been cut. You’re almost saying, well, it’s more important to cut the budget than it is to really worry about those folks.”

The Guv’s response?

GOV. JERRY BROWN: Are you serious? I mean, what you’re saying is, we should lie to people and say we have money, and then spend money we don’t have, and then in two years cut the programs that we just spent for the same people.

That’s the boom-and-bust, the roller coaster, up and down, up and down. That’s what’s been going on. And it’s not fair. So what I’m trying to do here is recognize California as a very compassionate state. We spend more than twice as much as all — as other states do on dependent families, essentially our welfare program, CalWORKs.

We have more money going to child care. We have more money going to many of these things to bolster the safety net and to compensate for the ravages of the world economy. And I didn’t come back the second time to be governor to be part of some masquerade. I’m here honestly to fix the budget now and over the long term.

Also interesting was Brown’s description of how he balanced the budget. It was vintage Jerry walking the transpartisan line — talking simultaneously how he cut government spending (yeah! says the right) while conceding that government “doesn’t do that many bad things” (yeah! says the left). From the PBS ticker:

But what I did was, I cut $3 for every dollar that we got in taxes from the Proposition 30. We cut the universities 25 percent. We cut child care. We cut all the good programs, because government doesn’t do that many bad things. We cut the prisons. Government does public safety. It does education. It does programs for the children, for the elderly.
So what you retrench in government, you cut the good, which in many respects is a bad.

More to come this week Brown’s interview Friday on “This Week in Northern California.”

Joe Garofoli