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California budget: GOP leader presents Brown with demands as stalemate continues

March 25, 2011 |  2:42 pm

Budget talks in Sacramento appeared no closer to completion Friday, but the dynamics were quickly shifting and nerves were fraying as the stalemate has now dragged on two weeks past Gov. Jerry Brown's initial deadline.

Brown needs a handful of Republicans to place a tax measure on the June ballot in order to close roughly half the state's budget deficit. The governor signed budget-cutting legislation Thursday to close $11.2 billion of the estimated $26-billion shortfall.

But the top Democrat in the state Senate threatened Friday to "pull the plug" on negotiations on a tax measure. Hours later, Republicans delivered a refined set to demands to the governor.

Meanwhile, the group of five GOP senators who for weeks had led negotiations with Brown have pulled back from talks, instead anointing Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga as the new point man.

"I talk with my leader, Bob Dutton, and Bob Dutton is talking with the governor, and hopefully we'll have a nice reform package we can present to the people of California to get them back to work," Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) said Friday.

Dutton and Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) met in Brown's office for more than an hour Friday and said they handed the governor a "package of reforms" they are requesting.

"We made the presentation to the governor as far as what we felt was necessary to restore California and help create jobs," Dutton said after the meeting. He refused to detail what was in the latest package and a ducked a question asking whether he would consider voting to place a tax measure before voters.

On Friday morning, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) expressed exasperation with the slow pace of talks. Though he said he would defer to the governor about when to call it quits, he added, "If these guys don't start moving and moving fast, I'm prepared to pull the plug."

 -- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento