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Strife continues over tax vote, spending cuts

March 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
State lawmakers continue to chip away at California's budget shortfall as Governor Jerry Brown tries to persuade Republicans to support his plans on redevelopment and tax hikes.

Lawmakers still have not taken up whether the public gets a say in extending taxes for five more years, as it's tough to get two Republicans in each house to go along.

As lawmakers plow through another $6 billion to $7 billion in budget cuts, it's clear the proposal to put Brown's tax extensions on the June ballot will be one of the last bills considered.

Even some Republicans find the spending cuts hard to swallow.

"To me it's very simple: If you're not for cutting, you're not for giving people the right to extend taxes, you might as well have an empty seat," said state Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), senate president.

But for Republicans, voting to put the tax extensions on the ballot is a tough decision.

The last time Republicans voted for taxes in 2009, a Southern California radio station put their heads on sticks via a website, and the Republican Convention censured them.

The next convention is this weekend, and there's a Tea Party resolution to label anyone who agrees to the special election taxes as a "traitor."

Influential conservative blogger Jon Fleischman says threats don't really carry that much weight.

"Nobody's giving the Republican legislators enough credit," said Fleischman, who runs FlashReport.org. "I think the reality is, they're not voting for the taxes because taxes are bad policy. We're in a recession."

But Brown said the other day all the outside pressure on Republican lawmakers makes it hard to negotiate.

"When it becomes a situation in America where letting the people vote becomes an act of terrorism, we're in a very serious situation," said Brown.

There is still a splinter group of five Republican senators trying to get major government reforms in exchange for their "yes" votes on the special election, a move some GOP senators say is what the party should be about.

"If they negotiate to get reforms and solutions and choices on the ballot that present a wider perspective of the GOP, they're no traitor in my book," said Eric Hogue, a Republican radio show host. "The Republican Party needs to be more than just the 'party of no.'"

Because of a new voter-approved law, lawmakers can now pass budgets by simple majority, with no Republican votes. It's being used for the first time this year for many parts of this spending plan. Republicans are baiting Democrats to use this method to call that special election.