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Assembly speaker floats idea of taxes first, public vote later

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez signaled a shifting strategy for Democrats in the state budget stalemate Tuesday, dismissing talk of a spending plan balanced solely by cuts as "an exercise in futility” and suggesting for the first time that lawmakers could enact tax increases and then ask for voter ratification afterward.

Perez, a Los Angeles Democrat, said Republicans in the Legislature had "acted irresponsibly" in previous months, and he challenged them to outline a comprehensive budget plan of their own by the end of April.

If they don't like our approach, then they need to put forward their own plan," he said during a news conference. He said there was no support in the Legislature, even among the GOP caucus, for slashing an additional $15 billion in spending to balance the budget.

Gov. Jerry Brown had sought a June special election to renew temporary income, sales and vehicle taxes. But he needed the support of four Republicans and, with none forthcoming, he abandoned negotiations late last month.

"Republicans ran out the clock on that option," Perez said. "So now the only option for public expression of their position ... would be after the fact."

The new approach, however, would still require a two-thirds vote and GOP support in the Legislature.

The governor had made a core campaign pledge of no new taxes without voter approval, though in recent days he has softened his rhetoric on enacting taxes first. "It may be an extension subject to a vote as soon as possible," Brown said Friday in Riverside. "I'd like to have it before, but the Republicans made that impossible."

Unlike Perez, Brown has continued to warn of the dire consequences of a budget balanced only with spending reductions, which he has insisted is a very real possibility. The governor has said that without additional tax revenue, deep cuts to schools and public safety are inevitable.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

 
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