Calif. Legislature To Vote On Brown’s Budget Plan

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The leaders of both legislative houses on Tuesday scheduled votes on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, even though no Republicans have come forward to promise the votes necessary for approval.

The state Senate and Assembly are scheduled to meet early Wednesday afternoon for floor votes on closing California’s $26.6 billion deficit.

The Democratic governor wants to balance $12.5 billion in spending cuts with a five-year extension of temporary increases in the sales, personal income and vehicle taxes first enacted two years ago. He has asked the Legislature to call a special election in June to allow voters to decide the tax question.

The package that both chambers will consider largely echoes Brown’s vision, except for what Democratic lawmakers viewed as the most extreme cuts.

Republican legislators have refused to let the tax vote move forward and face increasing pressure to stick to the party line. Brown said he is particularly troubled by a conservative faction within the California Republican Party that wants to label as a traitor any lawmaker who votes for the governor’s plan.

“Unfortunately, now the more extreme elements of the Republican Party are about to brand any Republican legislator a terrorist and some evil being if they give the people the right to vote,” Brown told reporters Tuesday before a luncheon speech to state probation officers. “And if it comes to a situation in America where letting the people vote becomes an act of terrorism, we’re in a very serious situation when a major party thinks that way.”

The state GOP is scheduled to meet this weekend in Sacramento for its spring convention. Republican lawmakers who might be inclined to compromise on the budget are reluctant to do so ahead of the convention, where they would be ostracized by party leaders and die-hard conservatives.

Two Republicans are needed in the Assembly and Senate to reach the two-thirds vote threshold required to place the tax question before voters. Although no GOP lawmakers have said they will support the ballot measure, five in the Senate have been negotiating with Brown.

Republicans argue that extending the tax increases enacted two years ago would cripple the state as it struggles to recover from the recession.

“Our members believe taxes would further damage our economy, and instead we’re looking at reforms that would fix our chronic budget problems,” said Sabrina Lockhart, spokeswoman for Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.

The state Department of Finance estimates the tax hikes have cost Californians $260 a year on a per-capita basis. The increase in the personal income tax alone costs $125 to an individual earning $40,000 a year, or $320 to couples who make $100,000 a year and file their taxes jointly.

Brown said his June ballot proposal is a question not just about tax extensions but about how constituents want him to proceed with the budget.

“I’m perfectly willing, if the people say no, that I’ll go through and I think I will have the vote of the people with the cuts that have to be made,” he said. “That’s why I say that the vote is important, not for taxes only, but for cuts.”

Most Republican lawmakers have signed a national anti-tax pledge pushed by the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans for Tax Reform. Many also have joined a new group called the Taxpayer Caucus to oppose a tax extension.

The group of Republican senators, referred to in the Capitol as the GOP 5, did not join the Taxpayer Caucus and seemed to be Democrats’ best hope of reaching a budget deal in at least one house. But negotiations stalled over the weekend, with Republicans saying they did not get the reforms they wanted.

The Republicans have called for implementing a state spending cap, freezing pension benefits for current state and local government workers, and reducing regulations for businesses. The lawmakers issued a joint statement Tuesday saying they remain united and will continue advocating for their agenda.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, disputed the Democrats’ contention that their budget plan was balanced. He said extending the two-year-old tax increases for another five years would raise an estimated $50 billion in new revenue during that time and the plan does nothing to solve the state’s long-term fiscal imbalance.

“It is just another short-sighted tax-and-spend scheme that relies on a $50 billion bailout from California taxpayers,” he said in a statement.

Still, Democrats are pushing ahead with a budget vote.

“Who says we don’t have Republican support?” said Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles. “We’ll take it as it comes. I’m not going to second guess what people are going to do or not do under hypotheticals.”

Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, also left open the possibility that Republicans could be brought into the fold.

Hedlund said floor debates need to begin so each party could see where the other stands.

Time is running short for the Legislature to pass a budget that includes a special election.

Brown wants the election held June 7 to coincide with local elections in many California cities. That also would provide enough time to prepare for the planned expiration of some of the tax hikes on July 1, but it’s not clear when the Legislature has to pass the budget to make that happen.

It missed Brown’s self-imposed deadline last Thursday.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Daisy

    Don’t they get it?? NO MORE TAXES, TAX EXTENSIONS, FEES, ETC!!! And don’t threaten the people with scare tactics like reducing police & fire, early release for prisonsers, closing schools… If depts have to be reduced/closed , look at the DMV, libraries, parks, while they are important, public safety is far more important. As for the schools, where is all of the BIG $$ from the Lottery?
    With gas at $4/gal. how are us working stiffs supposed to survive in the Golden State?

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  • Alex

    Didn’t we see this coming!! ” No New Taxes without Voters approval ” before he even was elected as governor. If he plans to cut public service, it should be even across the departments. From newspaper: Both Villaraigosa and Bratton, who have made it their mission to increase the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department to 10,000 officers. Bratton said the reason the city’s crime rate has been dropping steadily for years is the growth of the LAPD, which currently has 9,995 officers.

    In a report to the Police Commission Tuesday, Bratton said the number of violent crimes so far this year is down 7.7 percent compared to the same period in 2008, and 12.7 percent compared to the same period in 2007.

    Meanwhile, gang-related crimes are down 9.8 percent compared to last year, and down 34.3 percent compared to 2002, when Bratton took office.

    “We finally have a Police Department that’s clearly showing that it can continue to reduce crime, reduce fear in the city, and improve race relations at the same time,” Bratton said. “One of the benefits of having grown the Police Department and continuing to grow it is we are keeping the city safe.”

    But did he mention about how much it costs the city for 10,000 officers: starting salary of police officer $50,000 x 10,000 = $500,000,000 !! Not including overtime & salaries increases, police vehicles, gases. Last year LA Marathon, the city have 2-3 police officers at each cross street of race route? It is necessary !! I guess the security is for someone very important!! The final words is elected officials can’t make the right decision to balance the budget!!

  • Duude

    This money will be used to expand all California programs. They won’t be balancing the budget. Part of it will be due to fewer collections received even with higher tax rates. Expect round 2 of even higher taxes thereafter. They can’t learn.

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