Brown's Countdown, Day 89: California tax debate goes on the road

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Sacramento Bee

Published Friday, Apr. 08, 2011


With the budget stuck in neutral, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers are leaving Sacramento to bolster their case for and against taxes.

The dueling roadshows reflect the fact that the parties remain at loggerheads after talks broke down last week. Facing a remaining $15.4 billion deficit, Brown is still seeking an election on taxes.

Brown will visit an elementary school today in Riverside and a California Cadet Corps celebration Saturday in Los Alamitos. Both are in Republican legislative districts represented by senators who negotiated last month with the Democratic governor.

"The governor has spent a lot of time in Sacramento so far trying to allow people to vote on tax extensions," said Gil Duran, Brown's press secretary. "Those efforts have been blocked by Republican obstruction, so now he's going to talk directly to the people."

Republican and Democratic lawmakers said Thursday they are also launching road efforts to drive home their points.

The California Republican Party has scheduled a multi-stop tour over the next few months, starting Thursday night in Fresno, to oppose Brown's tax plan and call for reductions in pensions and regulations. They also built a website dubbed "Where Are the Jobs, Jerry Brown?"

"Sometimes we get, I think we get insular across the street in that building," Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway of Tulare said. "And it's a great opportunity to get out and talk to what I call real people, real Californians."

Democratic leaders said each house will hold budget hearings in the coming weeks around the state, though they didn't specify where the events outside Sacramento would take place. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he wanted to show voters what an "all cuts" budget would look like.

Republican critics said that Democrats were using scare tactics and that few people believe there would be sufficient votes to eliminate the remaining deficit with cuts alone. Steinberg acknowledged he would not support an "all cuts" budget, but he called the approach "very real."

"I think the choices are pretty clear, and again, without panicking people, because that never is the way to make an impact here, it's our responsibility to describe for local communities what it would look like," Steinberg said.

The Assembly Budget Committee also plans to hit the road, according to Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills. But the Assembly is not taking the same approach as the Senate.

"We're not entertaining "all cuts' right now," said Blumenfield, the Budget Committee chairman.

Brown's plan asks voters to extend higher tax rates on vehicles and sales, as well as restore 2009-10 income tax provisions, all to raise $11.2 billion through next June and an estimated $9 billion to $11 billion annually over five years.

If approved, Californians would pay a 0.25 percent surcharge on personal income and receive a lower dependent tax credit. They would continue paying one percentage point more in sales tax and 0.5 percentage point more against the value of their vehicles.

Little has changed since talks broke down over disputes on taxes, pension changes and a long-term spending cap, among other issues. In a Senate budget hearing Thursday, lawmakers feuded over the value of public employees and made little headway toward reaching a compromise.

Democrats focused on cuts the state would have to consider if Republicans blocked the taxes. Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, asked whether it might make sense to close some public universities to preserve the state's "flagship" institutions.

At another point, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, asked Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor to explore how the length of California's instructional calendar compares to those in other states.

That prompted Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, to ask that Taylor also explore how much the state could save by cutting teacher salaries 5 percent across the board, "recognizing that's like lighting a fuse on a rocket, but just to see what it looks like."


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