BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Gov. Jerry Brown met with local education and community leaders Tuesday morning as part of a statewide tour to discuss his 2014 state budget proposal.
Brown, who held the meeting at the Bakersfield City School District building, admitted his visit to the lower Central Valley is a rare one, saying he doesn't visit as often as he should.
"Things do sound and feel differently in Bakersfield than they do in Oakland," Brown said. "My idea is to balance the role of the state and the local, so that's what we're doing."
The governor answered questions afterwards regarding a variety of topics affecting the valley, including high-speed rail, the Trust Act and the current drought.
"Yesterday, of course, I met with the water representatives, farmers, water district people, to deal with the drought," he said. "We're going to have to make a lot of adjustments to deal with the issues of water in California."
Brown also said he's not yet ready to declare a state of emergency for the drought.
"After I declare it, then what?" Brown asked. "Anything that can be done today, we're doing.
"But at the end of the day, if it doesn't rain, California's in for real trouble. And the governor through a declaration can't make it rain," he added.
Brown also defended his desire to use $250 million worth of cap-and-trade funds to help finance the troubled high-speed rail program.
"I think that high-speed rail is a very important opportunity for California. Many countries in the world have high-speed rail," Brown said. "There's no question it would increase the wealth, the economy and the property values of Bakersfield and all in Kern County, no question about it.
"To be able to get to Los Angeles rapidly will add to the stature and the economic attractiveness of what businesses will locate here. So it means jobs ..."
But, Brown, who hinted about launching a re-election campaign, also said the next five to 10 years look good for California.
"Well, California can be optimistic. We had a deficit of $26.6 billion and now we have a surplus," Brown said. "We never know what the future is, but I feel very confident that California is a progressive state with a very strong economic future."