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Republican legislator joins Gov. Brown's road trip

Brown addressed the state's fiscal woes before educators and law-enforcement leaders at Hart High School in Newhall and called for a renewal of sales, vehicle and income taxes. GOP Assemblyman Cameron Smyth said he couldn't see how tax increases could solve the budget crisis.

April 22, 2011|By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
  • Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, center, meet with education and law-enforcement leaders Thursday in Newhall.
Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, center, meet with… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Republican critics called on Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday to stand up to his union allies in Sacramento as he was joined on his budget tour for the first time by a GOP legislator.


FOR THE RECORD:
Governor's Newhall visit: An article in the April 22 LATExtra section about Gov. Jerry Brown's visit to Newhall said that the William S. Hart Union School District had the highest test scores of any large district in the state. It should have said that the district had the highest test scores of any high school district in the state with more than 10,000 students. —

Appearing before about 150 educators and law-enforcement leaders at Hart High School in Newhall, Brown walked through his now-familiar PowerPoint presentation on the state's fiscal woes, bemoaning the fierce partisanship that has paralyzed budget talks. Last month's breakdown of negotiations, Brown told the invited audience, threatens school and law enforcement funding around the state.

"We can't decide on the basics," Brown said. "And the basics, of course, are public safety and education. These are the ones that are on the chopping block."

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) looked on as Republican Scott Wilk, a member of the Santa Clarita Community College District board of trustees, said Brown and his fellow Democrats deserved part of the blame for the deadlock.

"Governor, I think, honestly, you need to take the step," Wilk said, citing some changes he said were needed in Sacramento but are opposed by many Democrats and their benefactors in organized labor: a cap on state spending, an overhaul of the state pension system and limits on lawsuits against businesses.

"You've come this far, and you have your Nixon-going-to-China moment," Wilk said. "And sir, I hope that you seize it."

Brown has been criticized by Republicans for an unwillingness to cross labor allies on key issues in budget talks. This week, he took more heat over the terms of a new contract his administration negotiated with the state's powerful prison guard union, a strong Brown supporter.

The governor's spending plan includes a proposal to ask voters to bless a renewal of sales, vehicle and income tax increases that will have expired by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. No Republican has agreed to that proposal, but some said they would be willing to support an election on taxes if Brown agreed to changes such as those Wilk mentioned.

"You make an eloquent point for your perspective here," Brown told Wilk. "But we can't say [that] unless we solve everything, we're paralyzed and can't move forward."

Smyth, who has said he opposes Brown's budget plan, was the first GOP lawmaker to accept the governor's invitation to appear with him in his travels to various legislative districts. During the meeting, held in a brick-walled cafeteria at the high school where Smyth excelled as a football star in the late 1980s, the legislator, too, received some prodding from the audience.

"Cameron, this is the time for bold action," said Marc Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School District. "Somebody's got to step over that line and figure out how to fix this."

Smyth, considered one of the Assembly's more moderate Republicans, said he appreciated Brown's visit and some of the concerns expressed by his constituents. But "I don't see where the tax increase ultimately solves the problem," he said.

There were strategic reasons for Brown to go to Smyth's district, which extends from the foot of the Grapevine to Glendale and includes Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and parts of the San Fernando Valley. Republicans hold a slight registration advantage here, and the district could become more competitive for Democrats when new boundaries are drawn this year.

Brown made earlier trips to Riverside and Stockton schools that were struggling academically and had many economically disadvantaged students. The William S. Hart Union School District has the highest test scores of any large district in the state, according to figures from the state Department of Education.

Teachers and parents at the previous events warned of danger to essential services and of increased dropout rates if Brown's budget does not pass. Educators and students at Thursday's gathering lamented potential cuts in freshman athletics and in programs such as the school's award-winning marching band and show choir.

Brown, who had begun the day in San Francisco at a fundraiser for President Obama, was sporting a small bandage on his nose, the result of a medical test earlier this week. When the governor was asked about it, his wife, Anne Gust Brown, said he "got a little thing taken off" that was not cancerous.

Gust Brown joked that she had joined her husband in Newhall to protect him from Republicans. She said the couple planned to attend a Brentwood fundraiser for the president Thursday night.

anthony.york@latimes.com

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