Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine), center, discusses the newly formed… (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated…)
Reporting from Sacramento — More than two-thirds of the Republicans in the Legislature took a hard-line stance Wednesday against Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan, forming a new group and pledging to block the governor's efforts to let voters extend tax hikes.
The unusual effort highlighted the deep partisan divisions in the statehouse as Brown and lawmakers race to pass a state spending plan. So far, 22 of the 27 GOP Assembly members and eight of the 15 GOP state senators have signed on to the new "taxpayers caucus."
At a news conference on the Capitol steps, Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine), a co-chairman of the caucus, said the message to Brown was clear: "You're not getting Republicans to go for tax increases."
Brown has proposed deep cuts in state services and wants to ask voters to agree to extend for five years billions of dollars in sales, income and car taxes. The governor needs at least four GOP votes, two in the Assembly and two in the state Senate, to place a tax measure on the ballot.
Conservatives are already branding the group's nonmembers as potential GOP traitors. The two chairmen of the caucus, Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) and Wagner, went on the popular John and Ken radio show Wednesday as the conservative KFI-AM (640) duo posted phone numbers and photos of the non-signers and rallied listeners.
"You're going to see very intensified grassroots efforts" turning up the heat on nonmembers, said Jon Fleischman, an influential GOP blogger who attended Wednesday's news conference.
Most GOP legislators already have signed a pledge never to raise taxes. The signers of the new caucus' principles agreed, in addition, to oppose putting any tax increases on the ballot unless voters are presented with an equal-size tax cut. Brown has derided that idea as "flimflam" that would only worsen the deficit.
"We're hopeful there will be some leaders who are more reasonable," said Brown's press secretary, Gil Duran.
Indeed, the list of caucus members provides Brown and legislative Democrats a road map to identify the handful of Republicans who may be willing to negotiate.
"It's certainly informative," said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills), who chairs the joint budget committee that began meeting Wednesday.