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California GOP lawmakers band together in new group that pledges to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown's tax plan [Updated]

February 23, 2011 | 11:05 am

Two-thirds of Republicans in the California Legislature announced Wednesday that they were forming a new group and pledged not only never to vote to raise taxes but also to block efforts to place a tax-hike measure before voters.

The group’s creation is a stick in the eye for Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat whose budget plan is based on allowing a public referendum on extending taxes in June.

So far, 21 of the 27 GOP Assembly members have signed on, as have eight of the 15 GOP state senators.

[Updated 1:15 p.m.: Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for the group, said she had mistakenly included Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga on the list of signers. He has not joined the group, she said. Also, she said two additional legislators had joined Wednesday, Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) and Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton), bringing the total number of signers to 29.]

A joint budget committee of the Legislature began meeting Wednesday to craft a spending plan.

Brown needs a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature to place the tax question before voters. That will require the support of at least four Republican legislators, two in each house.

Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) and freshman Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine) are the co-chairs of what they are calling a “taxpayers caucus.” The signers of the caucus’ principles agree to oppose putting any tax increases on the ballot unless voters are presented with an equal-sized tax cut. Brown has derided that idea as “flim-flam.”

By listing their members, the new group is also providing a roadmap for Brown to determine which GOP lawmakers are at least willing to negotiate and compromise. Pressure will likely mount from conservative activists on those same swing GOP legislators.

The Republican non-signers in the state Senate are Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, Tom Berryhill of Modesto, Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo, Anthony Cannella of Ceres, Bill Emmerson of Redlands, Tom Harman of Huntington Beach and Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. The non-signers in the Assembly are Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo, Bill Berryhill of Ceres, Paul Cook of Yucaipa, GOP leader Connie Conway of Tulare, Steve Knight of Palmdale and Kristin Olsen of Modesto.

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for the new group, said more members may sign on in the coming days and that Democrats have been invited to join, as well, though none had as of Wednesday.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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