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Brown Meets With Lawmakers To Pitch Budget Plan

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California Governor Jerry Brown (AP)

California Governor Jerry Brown (AP)

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — California lawmakers can’t avoid making tough choices after the recent mortgage meltdown and credit crisis unmasked the state’s structural deficit, said Gov. Jerry Brown in launching a new round of legislative visits Tuesday to sell his budget-balancing plan.

The governor said Democratic leaders are as reluctant to cut services as Republicans are opposed to temporary tax extensions, but rebuffing his budget plan would leave the state in deeper financial straits. Instead, he urged members of both parties to “face the music and put California on a balanced footing.”

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

“We’ve been living a certain fantasy based on cheap mortgages, cheap money, and a very deregulated environment that allowed the bubble to grow. And now the bubble has burst . and we got to deal with it,” Brown told reporters after visiting Senate Democrats in the Capitol. “Also I think another important point; this is the first decade in American history where we have fewer jobs than we had 10 years before. And that’s a sign of a wrenching adjustment. And this is part of it.”

The state faces a $25.4 billion, or 30 percent, shortfall through mid-2012 despite a series of budget cutbacks and temporary taxes negotiated by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brown is calling for an “honest budget” that mixes an extension of those temporary taxes, impose billions more in cuts, and shift or eliminate a host of local government services.

Specifically, Brown’s budget proposal includes about $12.5 billion in spending cuts and borrowing. He wants to ask voters in a June special election to extend the income, sales and vehicle tax increases for an additional five years as part of a plan to raise $12 billion.

Lawmakers have begun a series of committee hearings to review Brown’s plan and they are hearing from interest groups opposed to the expected loss of money.

Mayors and other local elected officials have been vocal opponents of Brown’s plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies that divert local tax revenue to developers for fighting blight. Park advocates fear his plan for closing or reducing hours at some state parks. And the California Fairs Alliance warns that Brown’s plan would put 29 fairs out at risk of closure.

Brown is scheduled to hear concerns from business leaders later this week.

“Everybody would like this not to be,” Brown said. “I think it’s fair to say people are hoping against hope that there’s another way besides cuts or tax extensions, or just carrying on as we are.”

Brown said he hopes to get Republican support to put the tax extension up for a statewide vote, but minority party members remain opposed. GOP support in both houses is necessary to pass the measure on a two-thirds vote.

“Assembly Republicans continue to offer our hand of cooperation by working with the governor and Democrats to achieve a balanced budget, but we strongly believe that raising taxes does not address the root causes of the state’s continued budget crisis,” said Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Democrats in his caucus have questions about the cuts being proposed but Brown, but he pledge to achieve the $12.5 billion level of cuts.

“No need for the governor to sell,” Steinberg said. “He’s laid out a very clear framework that our caucus is ready to embrace.”

Brown said both sides have a responsibility to accept his approach on the budget because “the alternative is much worse.”

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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