While brandishing his trademark rhetorical flourish, Gov. Jerry Brown appeared before the state Legislature on Thursday to paint them a bright, and even rosy, picture of California's future.
It is the first time in a good while that any governor has had the nerve to do that.
Brown laid out a vision of a state that, against all odds, is beginning to recover from a terrible fiscal plight that has lasted about half a decade.
The governor repeatedly praised the Legislature and the voters for contributing mightily to the turnaround. But he did not spend much time specifically discussing the state's massive debt.
As one might expect, Brown expressed particular gratitude for the voters' approval of Proposition 30, which temporarily raised the state's sales and income taxes. Passage of the proposition should raise about $6 billion a year and avoided the state having to make massive cuts to funding of public schools.
He said that passage of Prop. 30 coupled with the anticipated turnaround in the economy will put an end to huge deficits that have been the skunk at the party in Sacramento for nearly as long as U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan.
The State of the State speech was pure Jerry Brown as he weaved in references as diverse as Spanish explorers, Biblical parables and none other than the "Little Engine That Could." On policy issues the speech broke little, if any, new ground, but it did allow Brown to be upbeat,
So much so that one almost expected to hear the strains "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha" playing softly over the PA system as he spoke.
We have had our differences with the governor, but we fervently hope that his vision of the state's future is correct. Like everyone else in the state, we have grown weary of hurting.
While the governor touted his bold plans for high-speed rail, massive water tunnel projects and revamping school funding, those were not the most important words we heard.
We heard Brown acknowledge in very real terms that California is not merely a victim of circumstance and that many of its fiscal wounds are self-inflicted. It is a message that must be repeated often so as to avoid repeating financial disasters.
Brown made sure to explain that his plan for the future did not include a return to the ways of bygone days once the money starts rolling in.
"Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our good intentions, but the basis for realizing them," Brown said. "It is cruel to lead people on by expanding good programs, only to cut them back when the funding disappears. That is not progress; it is not even progressive. It is illusion. That stop-and-go, boom-and-bust serves no one. We are not going back there."
We only hope that the governor really means that. In our view, such an attitude is absolutely necessary, if California is to return to greatness.