Pressure rises for tax vote in California legislature

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 12, 2011 8:17 PM
Pressure rises for tax vote in California legislature

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - The leader of one of California's most prominent public employee unions and a top lawmaker are parting ways with Governor Jerry Brown over his plan to ask voters to back extensions of tax increases that expire this year.

The president of the California Teachers Association instead wants lawmakers to extend the tax increases themselves, according to a report on Tuesday in The Sacramento Bee.

Separately, the Democratic state Assembly Speaker said Republicans in the legislature's minority have derailed Brown's plan for a statewide vote on extending taxes, effectively scuttling the June election the governor had hoped for on the matter so the matter of taxes should be left to lawmakers.

Lawmakers agreed last month to more than $11 billion in spending cuts and other moves urged by Brown, a Democrat, to tackle the state's budget gap.

The shortfall now stands at more than $15 billion, which Brown has said he may need to close solely with spending cuts unless the legislature puts a measure for tax extensions to voters and they approve it.

Two referendum options before Brown are to press harder for the four Republican votes in the legislature needed to put a tax measure to voters in November or to seek to put a measure on that month's ballot as an initiative.

The tax extension at issue, however, will have expired by November and voters would likely see the issue at that point as one regarding tax increases, which would face more resistance than extensions.

"Once you put it on the ballot after June, it's no longer an extension, it becomes new taxes. And once they're new taxes, the people won't support that. I think the Legislature ought to do that themselves," California Teachers Association President David Sanchez told The Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker John Perez said at a press event in the state capital of Sacramento that his chamber would be seeking revenue for the state's government on its own as Sanchez suggested, which would be at odds with Brown's plan for a referendum for any revenue.

Brown, who took the oath of office in January, had pledged during the governor's race last year to let voters decide to tax themselves to help bolster the state government's weak finances.

"I'm not the governor and I didn't make that promise," Perez said.

"Because the June special election is no longer an option, the Assembly will be seeking new revenues through a two-thirds vote in the legislature to help close the remainder of the deficit by June 15," Perez added.

(Reporting by Marianne Russ in Sacramento; Writing by Jim Christie in San Francisco; Editing by Gary Hill)