Republicans may not support a deal that puts higher taxes on the June ballot.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Republican lawmakers this week again insisted on a cuts-only budget, while Democrats argued that filling the $26.6 billion hole this way would cripple the state. Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown’s self-imposed March 10 deadline to reach a budget deal looks increasingly unrealistic.
In other words, it’s politics as usual in Sacramento.
On Monday, Brown admitted that the state probably wouldn’t get a budget agreement by Thursday and that he doesn’t have Republican support to put a tax extension on the ballot. His plan involves $12.5 billion in cuts, roughly $10 billion in revenue from extending higher taxes and about $1.7 billion savings from unused redevelopment money.
Later in the day, five GOP senators (including Central Coast Sen. Sam Blakeslee), who had been meeting with the Democratic governor, said that they had reached an impasse.
“We accepted your invitation to bring you our ideas on important structural reforms and willingly took to heart your admonition ‘to get out of our comfort zone,’” the senators said in a letter to Brown. “Although it is clear that you engaged in our conversations seriously, it appears we have reached an impasse in our discussions.”
Sens. Blakeslee, Tom Berryhill of Oakdale, Anthony Cannella of Ceres, Bill Emmerson of Hemet and Tom Harman of Huntington Beach signed the letter. The senators also say they presented the governor with proposals to create jobs, and reform pensions and spending, and those proposals were “either rejected or so watered down as to have no real effect on future spending or the economy.”
It’s all part of the game, says former Central Coast lawmaker Abel Maldonado.
“The real talks aren’t going to happen until the 10th or the 11th,” he says. “When the deadline hits, they’ll come up with something. This is part of the game.”
Maldonado, who represented parts of Monterey County in the state Senate, played a crucial role in past budget negotiations, twice breaking rank with the GOP and voting with the Dems to approve a deal that included taxes. But, were he in the state house for this round of talks, he’d vote against a spending plan that includes a tax extension.
“It will fail,” he says, adding that if it goes on the June ballot, “I’ll be voting no. Two years ago, I supported the higher taxes and I told voters that they were temporary.”
Former Central Coast Assemblyman Fred Keeley, however, predicts voters will see some type of tax extension on a special election ballot—but it may not be for five years, which is what the Dems want. Keeley’s the Santa Cruz County tax collector and sits on the California Forward board, a nonpartisan nonprofit working on fiscal reform. He says securing Republican votes for a tax extension will likely require the Dems to give them what they want: “This year, it’s pension reform for public-sector employees.
“They’ll do a couple of things. One: a two-tiered system where the new employees have a less-generous package than those already employed,” he says. “And two, the [retirement] contribution made by all public employees will increase.
“I also think the tax extension is likely to be shorter in duration than what the governor’s asking for. If I was a Republican, I might vote for a two-year extension to see how things are going, and force Democrats to make another tax decision in two years.”