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California Chamber of Commerce leader edges toward support of Jerry Brown's budget outline

March 3, 2011 |  1:39 pm

A top California business leader broke with the state's Republican leaders Thursday, saying that the state budget should include some tax extensions as well as spending cuts.

The comments by the head of the California Chamber of Commerce were cautious, and fell well short of an endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget. But they represented a step forward for the governor, who has yet to win a single Republican vote for his budget plan in Legislature.

Chamber President Allan Zaremberg -- whose largely Republican group has been influential in past budget battles -- said he wanted to send a message to Republican legislators: Vote for Brown's tax extensions, and your business constituents will stand by you, he said. "There will be support," he added.

Zaremberg is the latest of several business-community leaders to offer at least lukewarm backing for the outline of Brown's budget.

The governor has proposed a menu of spending cuts combined with taxes. To make his plan work, he is seeking a special election in June to stop the scheduled rollback of nearly $9 billion in income, sales and vehicle taxes set to expire by July 1.

But he needs the support of at least four Republican members of the Legislature to make the election happen. So far Republican lawmakers have been loathe to appear friendly to taxes in any form.

Zaremberg said he has not spoken to Brown since the November election. Relations between the two soured during the gubernatorial campaign when the chamber launched ads that Brown perceived as unfair, then pulled them at Brown's request.

But Zaremberg said the broad-based tax extensions Brown has proposed are palatable to state business leaders because they do not solely target specific businesses or high-wage earners. Taxes, he said, could be part of what he called a "comprehensive" solutions to the state budget crisis.

The state chamber's board is expected to discuss the budget proposal in more detail on March 11, one day after Brown's deadline to lawmakers to reach a budget accord.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento