Brown turns up budget pressure as deadline nears
June 13, 2011
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown was rallying support Monday from business leaders, law enforcement groups, educators and labor unions for his plan to balance the California budget with a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts, seeking to pressure lawmakers with their deadline to pass a spending plan just days away.
Brown was scheduled to hold a news conference after meeting with supporters of his plan. Both the Senate and Assembly were expected to take up budget issues Monday, although it was not clear whether they would make progress on the most contentious issue. A voter-approved initiative taking effect this year will punish lawmakers by halting their pay if they fail to make Wednesday’s deadline for sending a balanced budget to the governor’s desk.
That deadline has been routinely missed for decades, but the governor and others are hoping the threat of lost pay motivates the Legislature to act. The state controller has said any missed salary and per diem payments will not be paid retroactively.
The governor posted a video message Sunday stressing that lawmakers still need four Republican votes – two in each house – to extend higher taxes and call a special tax election. Republicans have been demanding a firm state spending cap and reforms to public pensions and business regulations, and the governor has said he is close to reaching a compromise on those.
“I’m really perplexed why a package of this magnitude and this permanence cannot be allowed for you, the people, to decide on,” Brown said in the two minute, 30-second Internet message.
Brown and the Democratic majority also want a so-called “tax bridge” that would briefly extend temporary increases in the sales and vehicle taxes until a special election can be called, perhaps as early as September. Democratic lawmakers, however, would like those tax increases extended for the full fiscal year that begins July 1, primarily to give school districts budgeting stability.
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Ultimately, Brown wants the tax question to go before votes. He wants the increase to the sales and vehicle taxes extended for five years, and an expired increase in the personal income tax rate revived for four years. The temporary increases to all three of those taxes were approved in 2009. The sales and vehicle tax hikes will expire June 30 unless the Legislature takes steps to renew them.
The Democrats’ one-year tax bridge failed in the Senate Friday on a party line vote, and GOP leaders said none of their members would vote to extend or raise taxes directly.
The Senate passed a few relatively minor budget bills Saturday but did not touch the tax question, while the Assembly has not taken up budget matters since last week.
California started the year with a $26.6 billion budget deficit but has narrowed that to $9.6 billion, primarily through spending cuts approved by Democrats. Democratic lawmakers, the majority in both houses, say they do not want to close the remaining shortfall with spending cuts alone.
Under state law, they need some Republican support to reach the two-thirds voting threshold to pass tax increases or place measures on the ballot.