Monday, December 12, 2011

San Francisco Chronicle: Governor steps back to focus on state budget

Governor steps out of limelight to work on budget

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"I think he's just decided that he has an answer that he's really shopped around," O'Connor said. "The next phase from a communications perspective is to meet with insiders and try to co-opt them. That has nothing to do with talking to the press."

Governor's focus

So far, in his third term, Brown has focused largely on the budget and the state's finances, though he also has proposed changes in laws governing public employee pensions.

His intense focus on a few things is in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, "who came in and said, 'What are all the things wrong with California?' and, 'I'm going to fix those things,' " said Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's press secretary.

Schwarzenegger's team, along with Schwarzenegger himself, made high-profile public pushes on a host of issues, from tax law to ballot initiatives.

"From a governing standpoint, an elected official owes it to his constituents to explain his agenda," McLear said.

Brown's staff argues that that is what the current governor is doing, noting Brown's appearance to testify at a legislative committee hearing recently on the pension issue. After that hearing, though, reporters followed Brown to an elevator, and when one asked why the governor had appeared to soften his stance on part of the plan, the governor retorted, "When did you stop beating your wife?" before adding that there were IRS issues at play.

Pressed on the tax plan, as details had already leaked, the governor said he was focusing on pensions and that "soon, we'll talk about that other thing." He then told the gaggle of reporters to step back so the doors of the elevator he was in could close.

Public perception

Gil Duran, the governor's press secretary, disputed any notion that Brown is taking a lower profile and insisted he is hard at work in his office.

"We're not trying to just chase cameras around all the time," Duran said.

The strategy appears to be working for the public, as Brown has the highest poll numbers of any politician in California, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which does extensive surveying on California.

"I think they're seeing him do his main functions and giving out his thoughts on how to fix the problems in the state," DiCamillo said.

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