Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Comparison to Cuomo Is Unfair to Brown

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    AP
    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference in the Hall of Governors at the Capitol on Tuesday.

    Jerry Brown is no Andrew Cuomo. At least if you read the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. Each newspaper recently compared the new Democratic governors of California and New York (who are also the sons of governors) and each found Brown wanting.

    Their case? Cuomo pushed his budget plan through, while Brown got almost nowhere with his plan and had to settle for a gimmick-laden budget. Cuomo fought against tax increases, while Brown fought unsuccessfully for tax extensions. Cuomo won Republican votes, particularly for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Brown famously couldn't get any GOP votes for his budget despite months of trying.

    Prop Zero's reaction? We're not above bashing Brown in this space, but this comparison is terribly unfair to Brown. Why? The governing systems in the two states are too different to make comparisons useful. Yes, Cuomo has a very difficult job as governor of New York. But the broken system in California means that Brown has an impossible job.

    Brown, in attempting to balance the budget, had to confront a sea of voter-approved spending mandates and tax limits; Cuomo faced relatively few of these, many of them established by the legislature and thus subject to change. Brown needed a two-thirds vote for any kind of new revenue, making his job much harder than Cuomo's. (Though look out Gov. Cuomo, there are attempts being made in your state to impose just such a rule).

    Cuomo also has gotten credit for legalizing same-sex marriage by winning a majority of the legislature. Brown could get a majority of the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage too -- but that wouldn't be enough to legalize same-sex marriage in this statel. That's because California has a ballot initiative system that permits people to do things like impose a  constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. That ban, known as Prop 8, can be overturned in only two ways: by the courts or by the voters.

    in this, as in so many other things, a California governor has less power than a New York governor.

    The real significance of these Brown-Cuomo comparisons is what they tell us about the political elites  that make them. These elites don't understand just how California works, or, more precisely, why it doesn't work. If they did, they'd know that Andrew Cuomo, if he were so foolish as to come out here and run California, almost certainly wouldn't be doing any better than Brown.