GOP Demands Lead a Testy Jerry Brown to Halt Budget Talks
A seven-page document generated by Republican legislators made public March 25 is a key reason why, four days later Gov. Jerry Brown has called a halt to budget talks with the GOP.
This voluminous list, posted by the Los Angeles Times, catalogues what Republican negotiators want in return for two of their members in each house voting to place before voters the question of extending $12 billion in taxes for five years.
The extension would largely close what Brown’s views as a $26.6 billion gap between spending commitments and revenue between now and June 30, 2012.
A package of spending bills passed by the Democratic majority Legislature and signed by the Democratic governor reduces state spending by $11.2 billion.
“The budget plan that I put forth is balanced between deep cuts and extensions of currently existing taxes and I believe it is in the best interest of California,” Brown said in a testy March 29 press release.
“Under our constitution, however, two Republicans from the Assembly and two from the Senate must agree before this matter can be put to the people.
“Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands.”
Sen. Tom Harman, a Huntington Beach Republican, said in response to Brown leaving the bargaining table:
“Recent polling clearly shows Republican reforms have the backing of the majority of Californians. Unfortunately the go-to answer for Democrats always seems to be more taxes. Nothing has changed.”
Brown was even testier in a letter he sent to Senate GOP Leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga on March 25.
“I was very surprised (and frankly, disappointed) that you came today with a very long list of demands (53 separate proposals), many of which are new and have no relationship whatsoever to the budget,” Brown wrote.
“From my count, your list today added almost two dozen new topics including obscure aspects of labor law and shifting the Presidential primary to March.
“In addition, your list of demands – if met – would undermine my entire budget proposal by undoing major elements and extending the taxes for only 18 months.”
Brown concludes: “Please let me know if you are prepared to refocus our discussion.”
A reader of the Republicans’ list can see where Brown’s frustration might stem from.
In Brown’s mind, such an exhaustive list of demands in return for the relatively simple act of placing a measure on the ballot for voter consideration does not constitute good-faith negotiation.
Judging from the document, Republicans and Brown were principally discussing changes in the pension system for public employees and a possible spending cap.
At least those are the two principal areas in which the most notations in red of Brown’s position are made.
But rather than confine themselves to those issues, Republicans include changes in the attorney fees awarded under the state’s Environmental Quality Act.
There’s a section that includes changing teacher seniority and making it easier for school boards to fire teachers.
A softening of the state’s greenhouse gas zero emissions threshold is sought and preservation of enterprise zones which brown would eliminate to save nearly $1 billion.
“The elimination of enterprise zones is a permanent tax increase that the governor not sending to a vote of the people,” Republicans say in their document.
They would also preserve redevelopment agencies, whose elimination saves the state an additional $1.7 billion in Brown’s budget plan.
Brown notes in his press release that the Republicans would unwind another proposal in his budget to change the way companies doing business in multiple states are taxed in California.
“The Republicans demand that out-of-state corporations that keep jobs out of California be given a billion dollar tax break that will come from our schoolchildren, public safety and our universities,” Brown said.
“This I am not willing to do.”
Among the changes Republicans insist on in shifting the incarceration of non-violent from state prison to county jails – a piece of legislation that ran 663 pages – is to “fix three crimes.”
Presumably, the GOP’s phraseology means three of the thousands of offenses that were shifted should still require time to be served in state prison.
The penultimate section of the document is titled “Necessary Fixes.”
Its contents reflect more parochial than statewide interests.
Among the section’s demands from the party that champions shrinking the size of government, is restoring $10 million in state subsidies to counties to preserve agricultural lands and restoring $30 million in state subsidies to county fair boards.
Republicans also want $10 million put back in the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund, an unspecified increase in dollars for charter schools, a relaxing of a tax amnesty program for persons who used transactions to avoid their full state tax liability and a rescinding of $13.5 million in fees set to be imposed by the state on large water users.
In the final section, “Other,” is “Consolidate and move presidential; primary up to March.”
Brown concludes his press release by saying:
“Much is at stake, and in the coming weeks I will focus my efforts on speaking directly to Californians and coming up with honest and real solutions to our budget crisis.”
Certainly, until the demand list shrinks substantially.
(Brown’s letter to Dutton:)
Filed under: Budget and Economy
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