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Senate Democratic leader breaks with Jerry Brown over special election 'preference'

March 31, 2011 |  3:28 pm

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said he would rather the Legislature pass billions in tax extensions and have Gov. Jerry Brown sign those taxes into law rather than subject them to a public vote. “I would prefer to not have the taxes on the ballot but that’s just a preference,” he said.

Steinberg’s comments were a break from the stated preference of Brown, who continues to adhere to a political promise to not raise taxes without a vote of the people. Brown's spokesman Gil Duran said there has been no change in the governor's position.

Steinberg said he understood that a cap on future state spending -- which has been sought by Republicans as a condition for supporting Gov. Brown’s plan for a tax election -– would have to be voted on because it amends the state constitution. But he said “the taxes don’t have to be” subjected to a vote.

Brown has been unable to find any Republican support for his plan to put income, vehicle and sales taxes before voters in June. There does not have to be any GOP support for a plan to raise taxes without a public vote either, but Steinberg said Thursday that was an option that should be discussed. He said Democrats were pursuing “multiple pathways” to closing the remaining $15-billion budget gap. “We’ve got to prepare for all possibilities,” he said.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento