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Jerry Brown urges GOP legislators to resume budget talks

The governor says he's ready to make a deal on pension and regulatory reform, and wants specifics from Republicans. They say they already gave him specifics.

April 23, 2011|By Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times
  • Gov. Jerry Brown gets a box of Wheaties at a summit held by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which supports his budget plan. He says he's ready to cut a deal with GOP legislators on pension reform.
Gov. Jerry Brown gets a box of Wheaties at a summit held by the Silicon Valley… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)

Reporting from San Jose -- Gov. Jerry Brown called on Republican lawmakers Friday to return to the budget bargaining table, saying he's ready to cut a deal on pension and regulatory reform to help solve the state's fiscal crisis.

Speaking to hundreds of corporate executives at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's annual summit, Brown challenged GOP legislators to present specific proposals to resuscitate talks that collapsed last month.

"What we need now is a deal," Brown said. "I've laid out most of the ideas, but then I'm negotiating with myself…. I want the other side to have a few ideas they can own and put in there."

Republicans, however, bristled at the notion that they had been ambiguous, citing a seven-page list of policy changes they gave the governor a few days before negotiations fell apart. Among the items were scaling back public pensions, imposing stricter limits on state spending and streamlining regulations.

Brown called the document "an ever-changing list of collateral demands" and subsequently suspended the talks.

Republicans in the state Senate said Friday that they had provided the governor with a path to a bipartisan budget deal. "We've given him specifics. He said it was too much," said Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga. "The ball's in his court."

Brown, who has been using his bully pulpit to preach the need for more taxes to help close the deficit, said Friday that both political parties were to blame for the stalemate.

"You have Republican legislators who don't want to extend the taxes, and then you have Democrats who are wary of curbing some of the patterns of spending that people have gotten used to," he said, adding that he was doing his best to play sheriff in "the great shootout in the O.K. Corral."

The Silicon Valley group's president, Carl Guardino, gave him a box of Wheaties and a 12-pack of Gordon Biersch beer, a local brew.

The governor was greeted with a standing ovation, his subsequent remarks often drawing applause — and laughs. After accepting the group's gift of treats and chew toys for his dog, Sutter, Brown told the crowd that the canine had more Facebook friends than his Republican critics.

The business organization has endorsed Brown's budget plan —backing that could provide political cover for Republicans reluctant to support it. The governor wants to renew billions of dollars in sales and vehicle tax increases that will expire June 30 and an income tax hike that expired months ago, and he wants to ask voters for their blessing.

After cutting more than $8 billion from the state's deficit, Brown argued that further reductions would have devastating effects, particularly on public education.

On Friday, Brown promised to act on the business group's concerns. At the top of the list in the organization's annual survey on the state's business climate: improving K-12 education and reducing public pension costs.

Made up of the deep-pocketed high-tech elite, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group represents potential donors to the governor's tax campaign.

"People want to see a budget. They want to see pension reform," said Mike Splinter, chairman and chief executive of Applied Materials, a microchip maker. "They know it's a big problem today, and they know it will be a bigger problem tomorrow."

After the meeting, Brown said the Silicon Valley group was part of a larger coalition, including public safety officials and labor unions, backing his budget proposals.

"They will be part of the campaign," Brown said. "And it will be more than Facebook, I promise you."

michael.mishak@latimes.com

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