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Brown meets with, praised by county leaders

January 4, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Tuesday is California Governor Jerry Brown's first full day on the job. Local elected leaders have been expecting bad news when it comes to programs. But some officials said Tuesday that Brown is getting off to a good start with them.Brown was already winning points Tuesday for his leadership style, using honesty and including people not normally included in discussions to sell his ideas.

On his first full day on the job, reporters met Governor Brown before he stepped into a meeting with county leaders to pitch a controversial idea.

"I do hit the ground running, and I just look forward to it, and I think the tone will be one, at least in the beginning, of good will," said Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.).

Brown's proposal is called "re-alignment," making Sacramento run fewer programs like parole and welfare and shifting the responsibility to counties. That move makes local leaders nervous.

"A shift in responsibility needs to be accompanied by a shift in revenue. There needs to be adequate funding for the program responsibilities that counties take on," said Paul McIntosh, executive director, Calif. State Association of Counties.

But the fact that Brown reached out to county leaders and met them in their offices to talk about responsibility shifts surprised them. It signals a new type of leadership in Sacramento, which had a habit of grabbing local money over the years to balance the state budget.

"Typically, they will call us only when they need us for something. And this is not to just need us for something. This is to bring us to the table to be their partner," said Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione. "That's what so encouraging to all of us at the county level."

Lawmakers have already noticed the difference. Even rank-and-file politicians have had meetings with Brown.

"It's so amazing, the difference. It's not meant as a criticism of Governor Schwarzenegger," said state Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord). "But they come from completely different backgrounds. They're different people. Arnold is a showman. I would say Jerry Brown is a statesman."

This good feeling of change and camaraderie may not last long. Brown will release his budget proposal on Monday, and there will be plenty of money-saving ideas people won't like.