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5 GOP senators say Brown budget talks have stalled

Republican legislators deemed most likely to vote for governor's plan accuse him of refusing to compromise. Quick approval of budget is needed to put cutbacks and tax extensions before voters.

March 08, 2011|By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times
  • Tanya Hughes and Mona Gonzalez join hundreds of protesters outside the offices of Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) to rally against proposed state budget cuts that would reduce funding for services for people with disabilities.
Tanya Hughes and Mona Gonzalez join hundreds of protesters outside the… (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles…)

Gov. Jerry Brown's push to have a budget package approved this week was dealt a major setback Monday when a group of centrist GOP lawmakers who had been contemplating supporting his plan announced that talks had broken down.

The five Republican state senators who had been negotiating privately with Brown declared in an open letter that the discussions were at an impasse. The legislators said Brown appeared to be unable to make key changes in government policy that they set as a condition for their support.

The letter could simply represent the kind of jockeying that is typical before a big vote. Brown last week chastised Republicans for failing to offer meaningful counterproposals. Now, they're accusing him of failing to compromise.

"We're all familiar with the kind of dance that unfolds in the midst of serious negotiations," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said.

The five, who had been considered the most likely in the Senate to vote for the budget plan, wrote to Brown that they have "concluded that you are unable to compel other stakeholders to accept real reform."

Sens. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo), Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Bill Emmerson (R-Redlands) and Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) declined to comment further.

Brown is racing to get his budget plan, which includes deep cuts to services and renewed taxes, in place this week. The plan relies on voter approval to extend billions of dollars in tax increases due to expire July 1; if lawmakers delay, the taxes may expire before a special election can be held.

Under the Legislature's current makeup, Brown needs at least four GOP votes, two in each house, to get his budget passed.

In their letter, the five Republicans outlined the policy changes they are seeking.

They include pension rollbacks for public employees, further constitutional restrictions on state spending, easing regulations on business, an overhaul of the tax code and an expansion of contracting out government work to private companies.

The senators also suggested that Brown abandon his plans to eliminate redevelopment agencies and tax breaks for companies that hire in depressed regions, saying he should reform the programs instead.

Gil Duran, Brown's press secretary, dismissed those demands in an e-mail as a "Republican laundry list."

"These senators have a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve significant reform, but they cannot realistically expect to resolve 30 years of contentious issues in one week," Duran wrote.

The Republicans acknowledged that they did not expect all their demands to be met, but said Brown had "either rejected or so watered down" their proposals as to make them worthless.

The declaration of an impasse could prove to be an impediment to the new administration.

"Every day that passes, the election can slip," Brown said at a news conference Monday. "So it's very important to get it done."

Brown said it is looking increasingly unlikely that lawmakers will meet the Thursday deadline he set to pass a budget but suggested that it could happen within a few days of that date. Both houses of the Legislature have floor votes tentatively scheduled for Thursday in hopes an accord can be reached.

shane.goldmacher@latimes.com

Times staff writer Anthony York contributed to this report.

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