Jerry Brown goes big on water.
By Steven Greenhut
As featured in City-Journal.org
During his first stint as California’s governor in the 1970s, Jerry Brown was an acolyte of E. F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful” philosophy. He slowed down the state’s infrastructure spending and urged Californians to pare back their lifestyles. His approach stood in stark contrast to that of his father, Edmund “Pat” Brown, who as governor from 1959 to 1967 increased state spending on water, transportation, and higher education. As Joel Kotkin explained, “Jerry Brown turned out to be of a very different political hue than his father. Sometimes he sounded more anti-government even than Reagan. He disdained his father’s traditional focus on infrastructure spending and instead preached about a more environmentally friendly ‘era of limits.’”
As he took the oath of office again in 2011, it was unclear exactly what Brown would do as governor—beyond seeking tax increases to “fix” the state’s budget mess. To the surprise of many, rather than picking up where he left off as governor 30 years ago, Brown decided to emulate his father. The new Brown maintains a reputation as an environmentalist, of course, especially when it comes to battling climate change. But instead of thinking small, Brown has made massive infrastructure spending the cornerstone of his policy prescriptions, along with the advancement of a pro-labor union agenda. Construction unions, in particular, have backed his infrastructure push, which includes building a $65 billion high-speed rail system that presumably would help the environment by getting people out of their cars, and a Bay Delta Conservation Plan that would cost at least $24.5 billion to change the flow of the Sacramento River—ostensibly to save a tiny, endangered fish that lives in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta.
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