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Republican Lawmakers Vow to Fight New Taxes

With talks nearing on the 2003-04 state budget -- and its projected $21-million shortfall -- Davis, Democrats face a fight.

November 16, 2002|Gregg Jones | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Republican Assembly leaders on Friday denounced Gov. Gray Davis and Democratic legislators as reckless spendthrifts and vowed to oppose any new taxes in the scramble to address the state's newly projected $21.1-billion budget shortfall.

Davis aides responded angrily, accusing the Republicans of shattering efforts to build bipartisan cooperation in the budget negotiations that begin next week among Davis and legislative leaders of both parties.

Even if every Democratic lawmaker votes for the 2003-04 budget that Davis must propose by Jan. 10, final passage next summer will require the support of at least six Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate.

On Thursday, hours after the state legislative analyst's office revealed its 2003-04 budget projection, Davis invited Assembly and Senate leaders from both parties to a "Big 5" meeting next week to discuss possible solutions to the shortfall.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 20, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 12 inches; 448 words Type of Material: Correction
Budget shortfall -- The headline deck of a story in Saturday's California section misstated the amount of the state's projected 2003-04 shortfall as $21 million. The correct figure, which was included in the body of the story, is $21.1 billion.

In a Friday news conference, Republican Assembly Leader Dave Cox of Fair Oaks and Assemblyman John Campbell of Irvine caustically defined the philosophical divide between Democrats and Republicans in the budget debate.

Democrats blame the funding crisis on a national economic downturn and say the only solution is a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes.

Republican legislators characterize the problem as a simple case of Democratic extravagance that can be fixed by cutting taxes and state spending.

The looming deficit is the result of "delay, wishful thinking and, frankly, the arrogance of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle," Cox said.

Davis' press secretary, Steven Maviglio, castigated Cox and Campbell for their comments.

"The governor's disappointed at the tone and the rhetoric the Republicans unleashed today," he said.

"I think it's shameful they come out of the box to try to make this so political."

If Davis and Democratic legislators are to find any common ground with their political opponents, they will have to soothe simmering Republican fury over what GOP legislators see as having the 2002-03 budget rammed down their throats.

"The history is not real good," Campbell said later Friday in an interview.

"For them to expect us to forget all that, that's unreasonable on their part," the assemblyman said.

Davis and the Legislature struggled to fill a $23.6-billion shortfall in the $98.9-billion budget for 2002-03, with Republicans refusing to vote for a general tax increase.

Cox and Campbell accused Davis of not living up to a late-summer agreement that finally broke the two-month budget stalemate by failing to carry out an early retirement program involving about 10,000 state employees and an across-the-board 5% cut in state spending.

Finance Department officials said the administration is working to fulfill both commitments.

Republican legislators refused to discuss specific cuts, pointing instead to proposals floated last June that they said would cut $5 billion from the state budget.

Maviglio blasted the Republicans for criticizing Democrats while failing to specify how they would fill the $21.1-billion budget hole without raising taxes.

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