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For Jerry Brown, it's back to the future in Sacramento
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California's political elite munched on hot dogs, potato chips and water on Jan. 3 to celebrate Jerry Brown's return to the governorship.

It's been a 28-year journey from the Zen-like pronouncements of Brown's first years of overseeing the world's eighth largest economy. The trip took him through the rough and tumble gritty reality of dealing with garbage, potholes, crimes and blight as Oakland's mayor for eight years and then a stint as attorney general. Now he's right back where he started from in the office that his father Edmund G. Brown - the man credited with building the infrastructure that powered California's economic expansion in the last 40 years of the 20th century - once occupied.

The no-frills approach to his inauguration meal was as much about substance as show. That was clear when he promised he would unveil a "painful but honest" budget.

The "small is beautiful" mantra Brown tried to inspire Californians with during his first four years as governor in the late 1970s is about to become a reality whether you like it or not.

The $28 billion deficit is very real. There is no convenient political script for this one now that his predecessors - Gray Davis and then Arnold Schwarzenegger - used every conceivable mirror and trick to give the illusion they were bridging the budget gap.

Brown more than anyone else knows that the governor can't dictate the budget. After eight years as governor during a much more functional time in Sacramento politics, the legislature essentially ignored his eloquent cases to lower the expectations that people had in government.

Now he must convince the legislature to do exactly that. This time, however there is no luxury of gently scaling back. The entitlement cancer has spread far and wide into everything from state support of arts to redundant agencies created to pacify special interest groups when it comes to hot button issues such as water.

Brown is correct in saying the pain must be shared everywhere.

Brown needs to restore our faith in individuals and the common cause of a community and wean us off our blind faith in government.

And blind it is.

Year after year we as taxpayers keep saying enough is enough but we don't want the programs that we favor cut. Instead cut something else back. And don't raise our taxes. Better yet, cut our taxes and increase government services.

The political class in Sacramento has played off of our conflicting demands to solidify their grip on the state even in the era of term limits by playing musical offices. They do this by giving us the services we demand while essentially keep finding ways to delay paying the piper by shifting debt onto another credit card.

Brown must find a way to forge two treacherous forces - the people of California who want everything but don't want to pay for it and the legislators who actually can make or break any budget and who act equally irresponsible by putting their political hides first and foremost.

We can ill afford to have Brown to fail.

It is why the Republicans need to let go of their opposition to extending the temporary taxes imposed two years ago. By doing so this will wipe out $9.4 billion of the $28 billion budget deficit. The rest will have to come from cuts.

Unfortunately, Republicans are treating the taxes in question the same as the so-called Bush tax cuts on the federal level that were imposed with the help of a Congress controlled by the Democrats.

Had the Democrats succeeded in blocking the extension of those tax cuts it would have had the net impact of increasing taxes contrary to rhetoric that they were giving corporations and individuals tax cuts. The taxes were already cut. Not extending them would have been a tax increase.

In California's case, the taxes - if they are allowed to lapse - would be a tax cut and not a tax increase. One can make arguments about how tax cuts can stimulate economic activity and in turn increase tax revenues. Unfortunately, California doesn't have the luxury of not having a balanced budget.

The $9.4 billion in taxes being collected for another year won't dampen the economy any more than it already has.

If Brown delivers on his promise to spread the pain with cuts everywhere the least the Republicans can do is give the state a fighting chance of getting out from under the never-ending budget crisis sometime in the next 10 years.