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No statewide tax extensions? How about local taxes?

June 10, 2011 |  6:05 pm

Senate Democrats flashed a potential trump card in the state budget debate Friday by passing a bill that would allow local authorities to raise taxes on just about anything after Republicans defeated an extension of the statewide sales and vehicle taxes Gov. Jerry Brown says he needs to fill the budget gap.

While many business leaders, including the state Chamber of Commerce, reluctantly support Brown's tax plan, most recoil at the notion of dozens of counties and special districts asking local voters to approve taxes on anything from personal income to cigarette sales to car registrations.

Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called for a vote on the measure late Friday, sparking angry huddles among Republicans who had just blocked Brown's proposed tax extensions, which require a two-thirds vote.

It would only take a simple majority -– which Democrats have in both houses -- to pass a bill allowing local authorities to appeal to their own voters to raise taxes for schools, fire departments and police forces.

This is "another club to use over Republicans and our constituencies," Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) complained after Steinberg introduced the bill. "Why do you think we have such low esteem in the eyes of voters? Because we've never seen a tax we don't like up here."

Steinberg said he wanted Republicans to realize that "one way or another we're going to provide the opportunity for [teachers and police] to do their jobs."

Friday's Senate votes were just the beginning of marathon sessions expected in both houses, as legislators race to get a budget bill to Brown's desk by June 15. Last year, voters approved a measure docking lawmakers' pay for every day the bill is late.

The local tax measure would still need to pass the Assembly and get Brown's signature to become law.

-- Jack Dolan