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Brown makes case for taxes at budget hearing

February 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Another first for Governor Jerry Brown: He defended his budget in an unprecedented, candid give-and-take session with lawmakers Thursday. The governor challenged lawmakers to close the state deficit.

It's really unheard of: A governor defending his budget plan in front of a legislative committee. It's a rare glimpse of conversations normally held behind close doors.

While Brown's appearance at a budget hearing was unusual, it gave the public a look at an unprecedented and lively exchange between him and lawmakers about how to address the state's now $26-billion deficit.

Brown took aim at Republicans, most of whom took a pledge to block all attempts to ask voters to extend temporary tax hikes the governor needs to prevent deeper spending cuts.

"When you folks say no, no vote, no plan, no -- that's not American. It's not acceptable, and it's not loyalty to California," said Brown.

"I have no problem saying I won't raise taxes," said state Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point)

Harkey wants to see major changes in retirement benefits and business regulations first before talking about raising taxes. The two had a somewhat heated exchange.

"The only thing we ever hear in this house about revenue is increasing taxes," said state Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point).

Letting voters weigh in is a tough sell.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats didn't escape criticism either, because if the tax extensions aren't approved, another $12 billion in cuts will have to be made, a move that makes them cringe.

"If we don't get the tax extensions, I am not going to sign a budget that is not an all-cuts budget," said Brown. "And it's going to be turbulent."

With more cuts a very real possibility, adult health daycare providers delivered thousands of signed petitions to the governor and other state leaders, begging to spare them. Brown has made it clear that all depends on extending taxes.

Brown even told Republicans he'd be OK with them voting "yes" to put the tax extensions on the ballot and then launching an aggressive campaign to encourage Californians to vote no.