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California budget: GOP lawmaker denies budget stalemate, favors June special election

March 15, 2011 |  1:03 pm

One of five Republican lawmakers who has been in budget talks with Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that negotiations remain open and that if a compromise is reached, he would favor a June special election on Brown's proposal to extend billions of dollars in taxes.

"It's still my hope that we'll be able to get to yes and do something that makes sense for the state of California and give voters a chance to vote on this thing." said state Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto).

Despite reports Monday that negotiations had broken down, Berryhill said Tuesday that "we're still talking. Our doors are still open."

What's more, Berryhill's comments were among the most explicit yet by a Republican that concessions on taxes might be necessary to balance the budget.

He said a budget that was balanced solely with spending cuts would be bad for his Central Valley district and bad for California.

"If this thing fails in June, you are going to see catastrophic spending cutbacks that are going to hurt every single city and town in this state. A lot of bad stuff is going to happen," he said. "There is urgency on our part to fix this thing before it all goes to heck in a hand basket.”

The Republican leadership in the Legislature has dismissed Brown's proposal out of hand, saying it includes tax increases that voters have rejected in the past.

Berryhill's endorsement of a June election was cautious, however. Before he agrees to giving voters a chance to extend billions of dollars in income, sales and vehicle taxes, Brown must first cede ground on issues such as pensions and future state spending, he said. Berryhill said union opposition to such a compromise was the main obstacle to reaching a bipartisan deal.

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento