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Voters Reprieved Or Jipped? Jerry Brown Halts Budget Talks

Paresh Dave |
March 29, 2011 | 5:35 p.m. PDT

Deputy Editor

Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg.
Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg.

California Gov. Jerry Brown put an end to budget negotiations this week, declaring "Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands." (His underline not our's.)

Republican leaders presented Brown with a list of more than 50 changes they wanted to see in state law from reforms to the pension system to changes to environmental laws. Talks seems to have especially stalled over Republican demands that Brown keep a $1 billion annual tax break for multinational corporations on the books.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature said all hope was gone of holding a special election in June to allow voters to extend sales, income and vehicle tax increases for five years. But Brown's statement left open the possibility that he would collect the thousands of signatures needed for such a measure to appear before voters in November.

It remains unclear how much money the state would save by enacting the dozens of Republican ideas--many of which were aimed at stimulating the state's economy rather than closing the remaining two-thirds of California's $26 billion budget deficit. Brown said they would actually cost the state $4 billion.

While Brown generally supports pension and regulatory reform, his specific proposals were never believed to be as far-reaching as the Republicans. Brown has had keep in mind the interests of labor unions and other special interest groups he would need to get out of the supportive vote for the ballot measure.

Among those groups is the California Labor Federation, whose leader said Tuesday that Republicans have put their narrow interests above those of the state.

"Republicans have shown they are more willing to protect tax handouts for billion-dollar corporations than protect our kids’ schools," said Art Pulaski, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer.

To "protect" those students without keeping the tax increases in place appears difficult. Cutting another $18 billion from the state's budget would mean reductions in almost all public services.

"Finding agreement required an equal willingness from the public-employee unions, trial attorneys and other stakeholders to join our effort to get California moving again – a willingness that was stunningly absent from our conversations," said state senator Anthony Cannella, a Republican. "As a result of these groups’ refusal to challenge the status quo, it has become clear the governor and legislative Democrats are not in a position to work with us to pass the measures necessary to move California forward. Thus, I do not foresee a path to compromise.”



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