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Gov. Brown signs billions in budget cuts to reduce deficit

March 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Governor Jerry Brown signed bills that cut about $8.2 billion from California's nearly $27 billion deficit.

Gov. Brown admits that a June 7 special election is no longer possible. He's shooting for a later date that month. He's also considering the worst-case scenario.

In his first major action toward zeroing out the state's $26-billion deficit, Gov. Brown signed into law most of the $14 billion in spending cuts and fund shifts the legislature approved.

"But of course, we're only halfway to the goal line," said Brown. "We need to find more revenues or we need to make more and more drastic cuts."

Brown wants to solve the other half of the deficit with tax extensions, asking California voters in a special election to continue paying the expiring taxes on income, sales and car registration for five more years.

But he is still looking for two Republican votes in each house to approve that.

Negotiations have been so difficult, Plans B and C are in the works.

"It's no secret. We're looking at every option because we have to," said state Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), senate president.

One scenario: Democrats approve the special election by majority vote with no Republicans, a move that's legally questionable.

The other is to get the tax extensions on a November ballot through the initiative process.

But a new poll out by the Public Policy Institute of California shows support for the special election among likely voters is falling.

About two-thirds supported it back in January. Now only half do.

Brown is preparing for the possibility he won't get a special election.

"If I can't do that, I'll try to make the billions of dollars of cuts as gently as I can, but it will be quite disruptive and painful," said Brown.

The budget cuts Brown just approved are already severe, especially for families on welfare with two kids, who will see their monthly benefits slashed by up to 15 percent.

"Their grant gets cut to $435 a month, which really means that that family is going to be on the precipice of homelessness," said Mike Herald, a spokesman for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

If the temporary taxes don't continue, Brown says the next round of cuts will hurt education, public safety and social programs even more.