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Local tax increases still on the table in state budget talks

June 2, 2011 | 12:31 pm

The leader of the state Senate agreed Thursday to postpone threatened action to give counties and schools broader power to raise taxes, but said he will press forward if Republicans do not reach a deal soon to put an extension of state tax hikes on the ballot.

Without the state taxes extension, counties and schools will need the ability to raise money locally to make up for cuts in state funding, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) told his colleagues on the Senate floor.

"I have one motive: to ensure that there is sufficient funding for public education, healthcare and public safety," Steinberg said.

Gov. Jerry Brown said later, in response to a question on the Steinberg bill, that he would not rule out anything.

"I’m not trying to inject myself ... but I will say this -- that if we don’t get the tax extensions, everything’s on the table for revenue and many other changes," Brown said.  

SB 653 authorizes counties, county offices of education and community college districts to impose or increase a local personal income tax, vehicle license fee, and transactions, use and excise taxes. County taxes imposed for general purposes would require majority approval of voters.

Local levies possible under the Steinberg proposal include a tax of five cents for each five ounces of alcoholic beverages, cigarette taxes of up to a dollar per pack, a penny per ounce soda tax and a tax on medical marijuana.

Steinberg’s threat to pursue the local tax bill did not sway Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, to drop opposition to the state-tax extension.

"There is no desire by the general population to raise taxes right now," Huff said. "If they don’t have the desire to go for it, it’s crazy for the majority party to be cramming it down peoples’ throats."

-- Patrick McGreevy and Anthony York

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