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Jerry Brown's State of the State address offers a chance to boost budget

January 31, 2011 |  7:00 am

Gov. Jerry Brown will deliver his State of the State address Monday evening, and the speech presents a fresh opportunity for the governor to reinvigorate his effort to build the bipartisan coalition needed to pass his controversial budget plan.

To tackle California’s $25.4-billion deficit, Brown, a Democrat, has proposed an unpopular blend of taxes and deep spending cutbacks. His evening address Monday, before a joint session of the Legislature, comes after a week in which protesters and city officials took to committee rooms and the Capitol steps to condemn many elements of his package.

The speech will mark Brown’s first major address since his inaugural nearly a month ago. Brown has thus far detailed an agenda consisting of little other than balancing the state’s books. Monday presents an opening to expand on his priorities before a potential statewide audience.

Brown huddled Friday in his Sacramento loft readying the address.

“You have some optimism about how great everything is and how rich California is,” Brown said of the speech last week, “how we’re going to create all these jobs and have enough water and fix our schools and deal with, you know, curriculum. There’s a lot of issues.”

Still, the focus is expected to largely remain on the budget. Brown has set an ambitious March 1 deadline for the Legislature to place a measure on a June special election ballot asking voters to extend temporary hikes on their income, purchases and vehicle taxes.

He is coupling the call for higher levies with severe cutbacks, including $1 billion from the state’s universities, $1.5 billion from welfare and $1.7 billion from healthcare for the poor.

Brown has undertaken several symbolic gestures to garner support from California voters leery of their leaders. He has ordered half the cellphones used by state workers be collected and, on Friday, demanded half the state’s fleet of cars be eliminated.

“We’ve got to retrench, cut back and if we do, if we take the budget that I presented, California will be in balance,” he told reporters last week.

Brown is expected to sell a similar message on Monday to a far larger audience.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento