California Budget Crunch Time Approaches In Sacramento

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS/AP) – Efforts by California Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers to court a handful of Republicans were expected to intensify this week as they seek a compromise on a plan to send a tax vote to the ballot.

A five-year extension of the sales, personal income and vehicle taxes enacted two years ago is the cornerstone of Brown’s plan to close California’s $26.6 billion deficit. He also proposed deep spending cuts and wants a special election on the tax question, but so far has been unable to get Republican support.

Some GOP senators who have been talking with the governor are reportedly being pressured by The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association not to negotiate. Additionally, a handful of Republicans appeared inclined to delay a vote until after the state GOP convention, which would take place in just a few days.

Nevertheless, the Democratic leaders of the Senate and Assembly were aiming for floor votes on a budget package this week. The concern was that time was running out for California to call a special election for June 7, a date hand-picked by Brown for a special election.

Pursuant to state law, a special election must be called at least 131 days in advance of a vote.

But, does that suggest time is truly running out for Brown? Not necessarily. In fact, there is a little-known loophole: state law mandating 131 days’ notice applies only unless the legislature passes a law dictating otherwise. And, perhaps surprising to some, that actually has happened before, and recently. Specifically, the statewide 2009 special election was held just 88 days after it had been called, and the recall of Gov. Gray Davis was organized in just 76 days.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Despite the loophole, Brown had reason to push for a vote this week.

“Yeah, it is because Jerry Brown really wants this to be on a June 7 election, that’s what his real goal is and I know you can play a little soft on exactly when to launch special elections but he wants that date for a number of reasons that he thinks works in his favor,” summed up KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier.

What’s driving Brown?

“Okay, there are (other) elections, that’s the first thing that the voters would be going out,” theorized Matier. “Another thing is that it would be before parents take their kids on summer break so you would be trying to get people whose kids are in public school, you want them to turn out, you don’t want to do it let’s say in July or August when there’s less of a chance of getting attention. More people are out and away and you get more of an anti-tax senior vote out there, so you’re trying to get that. And also because they, frankly, need the money. I mean, for this plan to work they’ve got to extend the taxes, not put them back on the ballot or increase them. So they’ve got to get that in by July 1st when the new fiscal year starts, otherwise they’re going to have to go back and cut some more.”

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

Brown had a valuable Republican ally pushing for a vote this week, as well. Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg made clear he didn’t think the state could afford to wait any longer.

“We’re not interested in that. We’re interested in getting to our floor sooner rather than later,” he said.

In fact, Steinberg hoped the Senate would vote on the budget package Monday or Tuesday. He was concerned about the potential fallout from a delayed special election.

“Our constitution deadline to pass a budget is June 15 and so I’d rather have the election, obviously, at least a week and a day before that constitutional deadline,” he said. “June 14th is the day before and June 21st is six days after, so that isn’t good.”

Education advocates were also pressing lawmakers for a tax vote. More than 300 advocates gathered Monday in front of the Capitol urging support for the tax extensions. State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said schools already have lost billions and that one-time stimulus aid is expiring.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Teachers warned more cuts will result in larger class sizes and a shorter school year.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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