Nightly News   |  January 26, 2012

Jerry Brown aims for California comeback

A statewide poll shows voters are in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot initiative. NBC’s Tom Brokaw reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> another place where those cuts won't go over well is the state of california , which has a huge defense contracting industry and took a major hit when the state 's passive housing bubble burst. california is mounting a comeback led by a man whose name has been synonymous with california government for decades. that is the back drop tonight for a conversation between tom brokaw and governor jerry brown .

>> putting it as simply as i can, california is on the mend.

>> reporter: there is a lot to mend. it's been a world of hurt during the down turn. a million jobs were lost when the housing bubble burst. when unemployment dropped to over 11% last week, that was good news. there was a time when california set the pace for america's economy. it remains a state of conspicuous wealth, but it is deep in debt. a year ago the budget deficit hit $26 billion plus. it's now about a 1/3 of that. to make up the rest, brown wants to raise the state 's sales tax and is asking californians who pay the most taxes, the wealthy, to pay more.

>> neither is popular, but both must be done.

>> reporter: brown says it is the only way to protect the state 's education system .

>> i'm not doing this unilaterally. i'm putting it to the people and urging them, make the decision for california .

>> reporter: now that he's back in california for his third term, a lot changed. governor brown is a lot older. it's a new century. it's not sunshine every day for the california economy , but jerry brown has not given up on big dreams . his new big dream, a high-speed rail line from the north to the south. through many rural areas. to redistribute the population. how would that help the state 's biggest gridlock? the 24/7 traffic jams around greater los angeles . i don't have any problem getting from the north to south. i have problems getting across town in los angeles . isn't that a higher priority?

>> when we look at 20 million more people coming to this state , you can't build more airports. you can't build more runways. you can't build more freeways.

>> reporter: the one-time boy wonder of california politics is now the state 's aging lion. a fourth generation californian.

>> that's my great grandfather.

>> reporter: sticking up for his state .

>> california has problems, but rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated.

>> tom brokaw tonight from california with governor jerry brown .