California lawmakers vote on budget laws Wednesday

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 3:38 PM
California lawmakers vote on budget laws Wednesday

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - California's Democratic-led legislature will vote on budget bills on Wednesday, but it remains doubtful Republicans will back any bills opening the door to tax increases, their aides said.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has rallied Democrats behind his budget plan but has yet to win over Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate.

Brown has proposed cutting some $12 billion and extending tax increases expiring this year to raise revenue to fill the state's budget gap.

California's deficit through mid-2012 was initially forecast at more than $25 billion but it may be near $27 billion after plans to sell some state properties were shelved.

California has the biggest budget gap of any U.S. state at a time when lawmakers in Washington are closely watching fiscal troubles facing counterparts in nearly every statehouse.

Brown wants to put a ballot measure to voters in June asking them to approve extending tax increases, which Democrats favor. He needs a handful of Republican votes to meet a two-thirds vote requirement for a measure, which would help him promote it to voters as a bipartisan effort.

The 72-year-old governor has not locked in Republican votes but they may emerge from negotiations he is holding with five Republican senators.

They are trying to get Brown, a veteran politician who was California's governor in the 1970s and 1980s, to agree to their plans for overhauling the state's pension system, imposing a cap on state spending and easing some regulations.

Other Republicans are demanding similar changes as they review budget bills slated for votes on Wednesday -- without holding out the possibility of backing a tax measure.

"Republican opposition to taxes has not changed," Sabrina Lockhart, spokeswoman for Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, said on Tuesday.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in a statement that Brown's proposed budget is the "only plan on the table that responsibly and honestly promises to put California's fiscal crisis behind us once and for all."

(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)