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Deadline for tax hike on ballot approaches

February 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Governor Jerry Brown says higher taxes are the only realistic way to solve the state budget crisis. But state Republicans took a new step Wednesday to stop that plan.

New administration, old budget battles: At stake is whether the taxpayers will help bail out California's budget mess. But two-thirds of California Republican lawmakers just made that more difficult.

The budget fight that normally intensifies in June is getting an early start. To no one's surprise, the bickering centers on taxes.

Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardena) just introduced a bill that would tax California's high-income earners an additional 1 percent to save social programs the poor rely on.

"All of these folks are a part of our family. We have to be able to take care of them," said Furutani.

Around the corner from that unveiling, Republicans announced the formation of a new Taxpayers Caucus, aimed at warding off any more tax increases, including Brown's proposal to ask voters to extend some temporary taxes for five more years.

"I'm not seeing the changes that need to occur to make sure that the state is lean and mean," said state Assm. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville), part of the Taxpayer Caucus.

The Taxpayers Caucus says it may be willing to put Brown's tax extension on the ballot if another measure also gives voters the choice to cut taxes in the same amount.

"The message is that tax increases are counterproductive. Tax increases take us the wrong direction," said state Assm. Don Wagner (R-Irvine), part of the Taxpayers Caucus.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst put together a doomsday scenario if more taxes aren't approved:

  • Public education from kindergarten to college would take a $6-billion hit.
  • Public safety, including prisons, would be cut by more than $2.5 billion.
  • And health and social programs: another billion.

Fifth-grade teacher Dana Dillion just wants to give voters a chance to save schools and stop the budget cuts.

"We cannot afford to have that continue. We don't have art. We don't have music. We don't have technical ed. We can't go any further," said Dillion, a resident of Weed.

A budget vote is likely very soon. The deadline to put a tax extension on a June ballot is March 10. Brown needs four Republicans, two in each house, to make it happen.