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California budget: Talks heat up as 'time is running out'

March 23, 2011 |  6:11 pm

Budget negotiations took on a frantic pace Wednesday, as Gov. Jerry Brown continued to meet with legislators in hopes of striking an agreement.

“Time is running out, definitely,” Brown said.

Increasingly, the governor is considering alternatives to seeking GOP support for a June ballot measure to renew temporary taxes. Thus far, no Republicans have agreed to his plan. His other choices include either a November ballot measure or using a legally questionable simple legislative majority to place a tax measure on the ballot.

California Labor Federation chief Art Pulaski huddled in the governor’s office to talk strategy with administration staff Wednesday. As he walked out of the Capitol, Pulaski said he was skeptical of pursuing a fall ballot measure, which would require gathering hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to qualify an initiative.

"I don't know if we can win in November," he said. "I think we could win June, or could have won June."

Brown and the two Democratic legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), met as well Wednesday and publicly committed to focusing on getting GOP votes for a June ballot. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) brushed aside any talk of alternatives as premature.

“That presupposes the Republicans have committed themselves to irrelevance, and I’m not yet thinking they’ve committed themselves to irrelevance,” he said.

Some, however, were proudly uninvolved in the discussions.

“Honestly, on this issue, I get a lot of my information from reading the stories that you all write because I’m not in any direct negotiations with the governor or his staff,” Assembly minority leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) said Wednesday.

Budget talks have focused on a handful of Republican state senators who have expressed a willingness to engage with Brown. Brown has met with Senate minority leader Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and those senators in recent days.

In the Assembly, no Republicans have publicly emerged as supporting Brown’s plan, but Pérez asserted with confidence, "We know how to get bills passed over here."

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento