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Senate GOP blocks budget

Republicans reject Democratic plan that included sales tax hike.

August 30, 2008|Evan Halper and Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — Democrats in the state Senate tried to break the budget impasse Friday by offering a plan that included some Republican ideas, but Republicans -- sticking to a vow to block new taxes -- voted it down.

The proposal included a temporary sales tax increase and controls to limit how much the state could spend in the future. It was rooted in a plan that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled earlier this month.

The plan, which required a two-thirds majority, or 27 votes, was rejected with 24 yes votes and 15 no votes. Every Republican senator voted against it. One Democrat, Sen. Louis Correa of Santa Ana, abstained. The vote was the first the whole Senate has taken on the budget since the new fiscal year began 61 days ago.

"The last thing we need to do to hard-working Californians is put a tax on them of any kind," said Senate Budget Committee Vice Chairman Bob Dutton (R- Rancho Cucamonga). "That's not the answer."

Budget negotiations were dealt another setback Friday when Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced that it was too late to place any measures on the November ballot. Spending controls that Republicans, including the governor, are demanding in a budget would require voters' approval. So would borrowing against the state lottery's future profits, which lawmakers and the governor say could bring the state as much as $5 billion.

"At this late date, 67 days before the election," Bowen said, "any more changes would seriously jeopardize the integrity of the election."

The governor has suggested that budget proposals could go before voters in a special election if lawmakers missed the deadline for the November election. Such a move would cost the state tens of millions of dollars.

The plan rejected by the Senate on Friday would have closed the state's $15.2-billion budget gap with the help of a temporary, three-year sales tax increase of 1 cent on the dollar, or 1%. It would have raised roughly $5 billion in the current fiscal year. It did not include a future tax cut proposed in the governor's plan to offset that increase.

Senate Leader Don Perata (D-Oakland) angrily rebuked Republicans for blocking the budget proposal, which he said met their demands for spending controls and service cuts. He said GOP refusal to discuss any new taxes is irrational.

"I don't know of any negotiation where you say, 'Hey, let's sit down and talk, but we're not going to talk about the following things,' " he said.

GOP lawmakers have yet to offer their own plan for balancing the budget. They have not embraced enough spending reductions and other measures to erase the state's red ink this year.

Perata challenged the Republicans to reveal to the public how they would eliminate the deficit without borrowing billions of dollars from local government and transportation accounts -- something he says Democrats won't agree to do. "This is serious work that requires serious people," he said. "I welcome you to suit up and get in the game."


Times staff writer Michael Rothfeld contributed to this report.

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