Henley of the Lincoln Club agreed.
"While I don't see (a tax hike) as a viable alternative, unfortunately, of all the good work that the Business Council did in coming up with the plan, that aspect is the only thing that we've all focused on," said Henley, whose club includes many of the county's wealthiest and most politically powerful Republicans--including some on both sides of the current flap.
Developer Buck Johns, a Lincoln Club board member, scoffed at the notion that voters would approve a tax increase "that would really be going to pay for the ineptitude of county government. That's just not going to sell."
Instead, Johns said, the fiscal crisis should be viewed as a "wonderful watershed opportunity" to restructure county government, making it smaller and more efficient in the process. The county, he said, should implement ideas proposed last week by a libertarian public policy foundation, including recommendation to lay off 1,800 county workers, slash pay for the rest by 10 percent, sell assets and privatize services.
The report by the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation was funded in part by the Lincoln Club and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.
"We just shouldn't miss this chance, but any time you've got a tax proposal floating around out there, there's a lot less pressure to look at any restructuring," Johns said.
Argyros and other business council members, said that they too favor many such measures but still believe the supervisors may ultimately be forced to face the idea of a tax increase.
"I am not for a tax increase..." Argyros said. "The reality is, if not that, what? Would (critics) prefer we have a giant meltdown . . . not try to help our schools and let the state take over? This is a huge problem. This is not politics as usual."
Still, differences over the tax issue are not quite as atypical as they might appear, given the county's one-party political landscape.
For instance, Baldassare and others said, many prominent developers supported Measure M, the 1990 transportation sales tax, as did the voters. But many more ideological Orange County Republicans opposed it.
And in the summer of 1993, as the county grappled with the tough political issue concerning the future use of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, some Lincoln Club board members commissioned a poll to gauge public support for a commercial airport.
But news of their poll drew quick, angry reaction from their own members who opposed a commercial airport. The group's leaders were forced to state publicly that the Lincoln Club had no official position on the future use of the 4,700-acre Marine base.
The early debate over El Toro--which split North County residents against those in the south closest to the base--showed that the business community could not be considered as a solid bloc in favor of a commercial airport.
"Much of the Republican business leadership in Orange County has always been pragmatic," said political consultant Harvey Englander. "It could always support elected officials who were ideologues as long as that didn't interfere with the operation of the county. Maybe it can't do that any more, but we can't tell yet."
The debate over taxes, UCI's Baldassare said, also served to underline just how elusive public consensus may yet prove on the thorny issues that await the supervisors in the months ahead.
Already, the professor noted, "people who were their supporters become their critics and those who were their critics become supporters. But everyone is going to be a critic until they come up with a plan for how to approach these issues."
Correspondent Shelby Grad contributed to this report.