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Tax-increase vote tough sell for Republicans

January 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Governor Jerry Brown's plan to deal with the state deficit will not be an easy sell. The governor wants to extend temporary tax increases another five years. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is mobilizing against it.California voters may not have a chance to say what they think about Gov. Brown's budget proposal. There are not enough Republican votes to put parts of it on the ballot.

Californians are already paying higher temporary taxes from their paychecks in the things they buy and for their car registration.

In the first vetting of Governor Brown's budget proposal by lawmakers, finance officials said in addition to more deep cuts, asking California voters to pay those higher taxes for five more years is key to getting the state back in fiscal shape.

"The reason that the administration stuck with those particular taxes is because people have been used to paying them," said Michael Cohen, Calif. Dept. of Finance.

But anti-tax groups reminded Republican lawmakers that most signed a pledge not to raise taxes, that voting to put the tax extensions on the ballot was considered breaking the commitment.

"As a reminder that the six Republican politicians who voted to increase our taxes two years ago are all out of the state Capitol today most of whom after suffering embarrassing defeats in pursuit of higher office," said conservative blogger Jon Fleischman.

Those six were vilified by fiscal conservatives for their vote on the temporary tax hikes. One website had their heads on sticks, vowing to end their political careers.

Democrats like State Budget Chairman Mark Leno say pledges and threats hamper lawmakers ability to do their job.

"How stupid is a pledge? You have relinquished your power to a special interest other than your constituents," said state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

Republican lawmakers say they are simply upholding their belief of no more taxes, no matter what outside forces say. They point out voters have already rejected extending the temporary tax hikes.

"That is consistent with my personal philosophy. It is also consistent with the people that I represent. So I think it's not about a pledge," said state Senate Budget Vice-Chairman Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber).

Two Republican lawmakers have not signed the anti-tax pledge, but it will take two Republicans in each house to get those temporary taxes on the ballot again.

Brown's budget posted online has broken records, logging more than a million hits in its debut, so certainly there's a lot of interest in Brown's budget.