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Gov. Brown Elusive On Pension Fix

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BEVERLY HILLS (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown knows California is ailing, but he’s not sharing many details on how he plans to fix it.

The Golden State is home to the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate, troubled public schools, overflowing prisons and a Legislature paralyzed by political bickering. It’s been lurching from budget crisis to budget crisis, while facing tens of billions of dollars in future costs for public-sector retirees that it doesn’t have the money to pay.

The veteran Democratic politician acknowledged the challenges in a rambling discussion at a think-tank conference Thursday, but mostly balked when it came to specifics.

Brown said he will propose a pension fix soon that could go to voters, after earlier attempts stalled.

“I don’t want to give you an exact date, but we are working on it,” he said.

He said schools are desperate for money, but alluded only vaguely to new taxes. He talked in broad strokes about trimming government regulation.

At one point was asked, “What wagons might we need to burn?”

Brown answered, “There are plenty of wagons to burn but I’m not telling you today. I don’t want to let them know that we are coming.”

Brown is nearing the end of his first year in office, after being elected in 2010 to his second stint as governor of the nation’s most populous state. He served two terms from 1975-1983.

Thus far, he has struggled to move the troubled state in a new direction: His fellow Democrats control the Legislature, but Republicans have shunned his budget and tax proposals. The financial outlook is gloomy: Through September, money coming in to the state treasury was running $654 million below projections.

Appearing at a conference sponsored by the Milken Institute, Brown warned that California’s luster — indeed, the nation’s — was in danger of fading. He also lamented the wide gulf between Republicans and Democrats

“We can easily stagnate,” he said.

“America is at risk, looking out on the next 20 years, given the competition in China and other places. And the only way we can overcome it is to work smarter and be smarter, and get a more coherent focus politically and culturally.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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