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Sacramento's Late, Cynical Push on Jobs

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 3: California Governor-elect Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference at his campaign headquarters on November 3, 2010 in Oakland, California. Brown secured his second Governorship by defeating Republican challenger Meg Whitman with nearly 54% of the votes despite the record setting $160 million spent on her campaign. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

    Now that there are less than three weeks left in the legislative session, the governor and legislature want to focus on jobs. 

    Apparently, jobs weren't a concern of anyone in California for the first seven-and-a-half months of the year, when everyone in Sacramento focused on not fixing the governing system and not balancing the budget.

    OK, it's easy to be cynical about Sacramento's newfound attention to the jobs crisis.

    Credit should be given to Gov. Jerry Brown for using this moment to begin a conversation about taxes.

    His proposal, which is being rolled out to journalists as I write, would take away the ability of businesses to choose how they pay corporate tax -- in exchange for tax credits targeted to job creation.

    Brown also is pushing for the renewal of an energy surcharge that has been used to boost investment and jobs in the renewable energy sector.

    All that sounds pretty good. So what could stop such sensible proposals?

    Unfortunately, there's an easy answer to that question: the broken governing system.

    Yes, the governing system that lawmakers and the governor have been at pains not to reform, despite legions of calls for big change.

    For Brown to get his proposals on taxes or energy through, he'll need two-thirds votes in the legislature.

    That requires Republican support, and the GOP has adamantly opposed to any kind of tax hike (even if packaged with provisions that add jobs or cut other taxes).

    So it's more than likely the jobs push is going nowhere.

    So why are Democrats trying it? A cynical answer; they're trying to score points -- and win gains in next year's elections, when two-thirds majorities in the legislature might be within their grasp -- by painting the Republicans as obstructing measures to produce jobs.

    This is probably a good political strategy. But it is not a jobs strategy.

    A jobs strategy -- or any forward-thinking strategy in California -- is essentially impossible without a comprehensive redesign of the broken governing system to introduce real political competition and accountability.

    Unfortunately, that's the door that Brown and much of the state's political leadership refuses to walk through.

    Even though that's the only door to a better, more prosperous California.