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Gov. Jerry Brown confident California voters will go for taxes

Gov. Jerry Brown says his budget plan is "going to take sacrifice from every sector in California." Brown spoke at a news conference Monday at the state Capitol in which he released the spending blueprint.

He expressed confidence that voters would approve extending, for five more years, temporary tax hikes that are set to expire this year. He said that although he wanted lawmakers to agree on a budget by March, he would not sign a spending plan until after a special election on the taxes was held in June.

Asked why voters would approve the same extension of tax hikes they already rejected at the ballot in 2009, Brown said, "I think there are a significant number of people who have an open mind. … It depends upon the context and situation. There have been a lot of cuts. There have been a lot of cuts to schools over the years, and I think people will make a judgment."

But Brown declined to say what further cuts he would propose if taxes were rejected at the ballot.

"If it I tell them, 'This is going to happen' [if taxes are rejected], some people might say I am putting a gun to their head," he said.

Brown acknowledged that even getting the tax proposal on the ballot, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, will be a challenge. Republican lawmakers "will be very hesitant," he said. "But you have to face the choice. What do you want in California? I believe if you think about overall good of California we will get some Republican votes."

Some in the Capitol have speculated that Brown and Democrats could leave Republicans out of the process altogether, by using a convoluted legal maneuver that might allow the measure to get on the ballot with a simple majority vote. Asked if Brown would go that route, he said: "I'm not going to offer that opinion today. I think this will be much better if this is a bipartisan effort.

Brown spoke in detail about his plans to shift to reshape government so local governments have more control over the way the programs.

"My proposed restructuring will return decision making, as much as possible, to cities and counties and schools," he said. "Government will be closer to the people."

He went on to offer a history of all the unsavory accounting maneuvers the state had engaged in recently. "We've had 10 years of gimmicks and tricks," he said. "All of that puts us in a mess, it's not honest, and we are now going to make it transparent as possible. ... It is better to take our medicine now and get the state on a balanced footing."

And he cautioned that even if his plan were implemented in full, including the extension of tax increases, "it is still a tight squeeze" to keep the state solvent.

The cuts in Brown's budget resemble many of those former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed but lawmakers rejected. Asked if the budget therefore is more of the same, Brown disputed the premise of the question.

"I think looks a lot different," he said. "I think it is straightforward, comprehensive ... and will hold out hope of a more accountable and efficient government."

-- Evan Halper in Sacramento

READ THE DOCUMENT: "The complete text of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget."

 
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