SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he is making progress on pension and other government reforms but needs Republican lawmakers to agree to extend temporary taxes until a statewide special election can be held later this year.
Brown told The Associated Press that he is trying to meet GOP demands for pension reforms, a spending cap and regulatory reforms to help California businesses. The Democratic governor needs four GOP votes in the Legislature to put the tax question before voters.
The governor said the current hang-up is over whether Republicans will be willing to support extending the state’s higher sales, income and vehicle taxes for a few months until voters get to make the final decision, perhaps in a September special election. All the temporary taxes will expire by July 1.
“We have pension reform very close. We have a cap very close. And we have other regulatory reform,” Brown said in a telephone interview. “That’s moving. It’s complicated, but the real stumbling block is the September election and how we get from July 1 to the September election.
“And I believe it’s imperative that we have a bridge of the taxes extended. Otherwise, we disrupt our schools, our universities, our public safety.”
Lawmakers have a June 15 deadline to send a balanced budget proposal to the governor, who says the renewal of the tax increases is essential to closing California’s remaining $9.6 billion deficit.
The governor has signed into law about $11.2 billion in spending cuts and fund transfers to begin closing what had been a $26.6 billion budget deficit.
Brown spoke at length about the Republican priorities for the first time since talks with five GOP senators broke off in March. He said he is not under pressure from labor unions, which spent billions to support his campaign last year, to oppose reforms.
Brown received more than $6 million in donations from unions during his campaign for governor, and independent groups, mostly financed by labor unions, spent an additional $26 million to help him defeat Republican candidate Meg Whitman.
“There are a number of Republican legislators who are doing everything they can to block the vote, which requires the bridge,” Brown said. “But it’s not about unions, it’s not about pensions.”
Republican legislative leaders were preparing a response.
The governor said he needs GOP members to accommodate his request in order for any agreement to work out. He said a majority of Californians support a vote so it’s reasonable to ask Republicans to extend temporary taxes a few months until voters can weigh in.
“If they vote no, then yeah, maybe they get 100 days of taxes,” Brown said. “But if they vote yes, then you have continuity and you don’t have chaos.”
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, most California voters want a say in how to solve the state’s budget deficit, but they disagree with Brown’s call for a renewal of higher taxes.
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