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Letters provide window on secret budget talks

Jockeying over the state budget has come down to a flurry of closed meetings and open letters.

The letters hint at the progress of the negotiations: One sent Monday by a group of five moderate Republican senators spelled out a long list of policy changes they sought as part of a deal.

Then forces on the Democratic side weighed in. A coalition consisting of the state's largest labor organizations sent their own letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown to hold the line on public-employee pensions. Another letter came from environmental groups, imploring Brown not to give ground on environmental safeguards.

By late in the week, the Republicans' wish list had been whittled down. Yet another open letter, sent Wednesday to Republican lawmakers by leaders of the Orange County-based New Majority, argued for a deal if just two issues -- pensions and future state spending -- were addressed.

As the letters fly, Brown's deadline to the Legislature for a vote on a tax-extension election will pass Thursday with no deal in sight.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

 
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