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Dems ready to pull plug on budget talks

March 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tempers flare as the budget impasse continues in Sacramento. Republican lawmakers have handed Governor Jerry Brown a list of demands, and a top Democrat is ready to end negotiations and go straight to the voters.

Lawmakers are on call during their three-day holiday weekend this weekend in case a deal is brokered on the budget. But there appears to be little hope that will happen.

State Assembly Speaker John Perez walked out of Governor Jerry Brown's office saying budget talks have taken a step backward.

Two different Republican leaders have now taken over negotiations and given Brown their undisclosed list of demands, two weeks past the governor's deadline.

"We made the presentation to the governor as far as what we felt was necessary in order to restore California and help create jobs. And he's going to kind of think about it and get back to us," said state Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), senate minority leader.

Democrats are becoming increasingly frustrated, threatening to end negotiations and put the special election to extend some temporary taxes up for a floor vote, a proposal that Republicans refuse to support without an overhaul in government operations.

"If these guys don't start moving, and moving fast, I'm prepared to pull the plug," said state Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), senate president. "And if the vote isn't there, then we are going to consider the other pathways."

Parents and teachers are glad to hear other pathways are being considered to get the tax extensions on the ballot.

Tens of thousands of pink slips went out to California teachers earlier this month and voter approval to pay the higher tax rates for five more years could save those jobs. Otherwise, public schools could see the budget ax for another $5 billion, a funding cut they can hardly afford.

"Oh definitely, they should have a special election. If they're going to take everything away, we should have a right to say, 'Hey, wait a minute,'" said Sabrina Fritz, a concerned parent.

"The one thing I feel like sometimes that I'm letting kids move on to the next level that didn't get everything that they needed to with me," said Marc DeVore, a 5th-grade teacher from Modesto.

One Republican involved in earlier negotiations isn't ready to give up hope.

"It's possible anytime for these guys to finally come to a consensus. I think that consensus is getting closer all the time," said state Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto).

Brown's office says there is a list of 53 items of Republican demands. Among them: Moving the presidential primary to a different month. The list will also likely include changes to public pensions, environmental laws, and a limit on government spending.