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Assembly Panel OKs Quake Bond Plan : Recovery: But Democrats amend proposal so rejection by voters would trigger quarter-cent sales tax hike.

March 04, 1994|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — A legislative committee reversed itself Thursday and approved Gov. Pete Wilson's proposed $1.05-billion bond issue to help California pay its share of repairing the damage from the Northridge earthquake.

But in doing so, majority Democrats on the Assembly Ways and Means Committee injected a new element in the financing plan that the governor opposes--an amendment by Speaker Willie Brown that would automatically impose a quarter-cent temporary sales tax increase if voters reject the bond issue June 6.

Wilson, who is seeking reelection, has said he will not agree to a tax increase during this recessionary time to pay any of the state's $1.9-billion share of earthquake reconstruction efforts. Instead, he has offered the bond measure, which would finance about half of the state's obligation.

The committee action complicates the state government's response, but is not expected to cause any slowing of the rebuilding effort. The funds at issue are to be used for reimbursement of federal funds that are being spent now.

Wilson's bond issue and Brown's proposed tax increase would require approval of two-thirds of each house of the Legislature--at this point an unlikely outcome with Wilson, along with fellow Republicans, and Democrats sharply at odds over the tax issue.

However, both sides indicated that they may be willing to negotiate.

"Moving as expeditiously as we can far outweighs differences of tax policy that may split us," said Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), who is carrying the governor's bill.

The measure will be debated before the full Assembly, probably next week.

Wilson complained through a spokesman about the addition of Brown's tax provision, but did not declare a solution to be out of reach. "We are not backing away from the bond measure and feel there is still an opportunity to have a clean bond bill come out of the Legislature," said deputy press secretary J. P. Tremblay.

Brown and other Democrats have criticized the Republican governor for failing to advance a contingency plan to finance earthquake recovery in case the voters reject his bond issue.

"Mine is the responsible plan," Brown said Thursday of his amendments to Wilson's bond issue.

The governor's bond issue was unexpectedly rejected by Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, chiefly on the grounds that it did not contain a temporary tax increase for recovery.

The committee, at Brown's urging, called a special meeting Thursday to reconsider the issue. Democrats reversed themselves and approved the bond issue but inserted into it the Speaker's amendment calling for the temporary tax increase if voters killed the bond issue.

Brown is the author of a bill pending in the Senate that would raise $1.4 billion over the next two years by increasing the statewide sales by quarter-cent on the dollar.

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