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Neel Kashkari

It’s Time for California to Bench Brown

[Publisher’s Note: We are pleased to present this original commentary from Neel Kashkari, candidate for Governor of California.  If you had not seen in, I conducted an interview with Kashkari not too long ago, which you can read here.– Flash]

Over the weekend, at the California Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles, Gov. Jerry Brown echoed a familiar refrain. He said that “California is back!” and that “California is working.”

Neel Kashkari

Really? Companies moving out of state and taking California jobs with them? Record-high state government spending? Hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities? 17 percent of Californians unemployed or stuck in a part-time job?

Gov. Brown may believe that the state is better than ever – but that’s far from the reality millions of Californians are living every day.

Worse still, the Governor not only ignores the enormity of the challenges facing our state today – but he continues to pursue a $67 billion legacy project that Californians don’t want and can’t afford.

Last week, I traveled around the Central Valley talking with farmers and community leaders who are being devastated by the status quo. They’re worried about the lack of water in the region. They’re worried about the lack of jobs. They’re worried that their kids aren’t getting the quality education that they need and deserve. Not surprisingly, none of them support the high-speed rail project.

It’s clear: There is no better example of Gov. Brown’s misplaced priorities than his “crazy train” project.

To be sure, Gov. Brown has painted a rosy picture of the current state of affairs in California. If there’s one thing he’s been very successful at during his three terms in the governor’s office, it’s lowering expectations. He’s led us all to believe that the status quo is all that’s possible for California.

But that status quo is devastating millions of California families. Our state ranks 46th in jobs, 46th in education and 1st in poverty. We’re facing a record-setting drought that could have ripple effects across the nearly 40 percent of Central Valley jobs that are tied to agriculture. Yet Gov. Brown is either unwilling or unable to make the hard changes necessary to prepare for the next inevitable drought, create jobs and fix our schools.

California is a great state – but instead of unlocking the potential of our small businesses, instead of getting out of the way of job creators, instead of focusing on the state’s most pressing issues, Gov. Brown has put the squeeze on California’s middle-class families.

His rationale for an unprecedented fourth term is his experience in office. But let’s look back at what his decades-long career in government has yielded:

During his first term in office, California was the 11th most educated state in terms of high school diploma attainment. Today, California ranks 48th. In 1980, California ranked 24th in jobs. Today, we rank 46th. Back then, the state ranked in the middle in terms of poverty rates. Today, we lead the nation with 24 percent of Californians living in poverty.

Even since he took office for his third term in 2011, the growth in the number of millionaires and the number of food stamp recipients has outpaced the rest of the country – which means the income gap is getting wide and wider, and California’s middle class is disappearing.

We can’t let him get away with this record of failure.

As a lifelong Republican, I believe that economic growth – not bigger and bigger government – is the most powerful force we have to lift people up. Jobs and education are the keys to giving every Californian the hope and the opportunity they need to pursue the American Dream.

Gov. Brown, on the other hand, has decided to sweep the big issues California faces under the rug and declare victory. He’s had three terms in office, and those three terms have not yielded the bold leadership or the bold reforms our state needs to get back on track.

So this weekend, as Republicans from across the state gather in Burlingame, we need to send a loud message to Sacramento. We need the Democratic leadership to know that the status quo is unacceptable, and that we won’t let them get away with it. We need to tell them it’s time to “Bench Brown.”

You can find out more about the Kashkari campaign by going to his campaign website here.