Bickering Continues After Collapse of Budget Talks

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — When Gov. Jerry Brown announced last week that he was ending budget negotiations with Republicans, saying their demands were too much and came too late in the process, he rejected a lengthy list of requests GOP lawmakers wanted in exchange for their votes.

His rejection led Republicans to question whether the Democratic governor was serious about compromise, as he repeatedly has claimed. But it also gave rise to criticism that Republican lawmakers had overreached and, in the end, failed to get any of the changes to employee pensions, business regulations and state spending they have desired for years.

As the blame game continues in the Capitol, the failure of the budget negotiations highlights a political dynamic that has been at the center of the dysfunction in the state Legislature — a minority party embittered by years of losses and a majority party, the Democrats, that resents having to get Republican approval to pass the kinds of budgets it wants.

Republicans have leverage during budget negotiations because any tax or fee increase, or any legislative ballot measure, requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and thus some GOP support. They say they have to use that leverage because the Democrats who control the Legislature will not approve their bills any other time of the year.

Democrats control the governor’s office, have wide majorities in the Assembly and Senate, hold every statewide constitutional office and say their ideas are more in line with those held by the majority of Californians.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg admonished the minority party during a recent floor debate over the budget, saying their demands should be proportional to their representation in the Legislature (Democrats hold a combined 77-42 edge in both houses).

“I would urge you to recognize that, in order to get this done … that you acknowledge that elections matter,” the Sacramento Democrat said.

In the coming week, Brown is scheduled to press his case with Californians, and Republican officials also plan to make their claims with voters. The governor could seek union support for a special election ballot measure to raise taxes in the fall, but the way forward to solve the remainder of California’s deficit — more than $15 billion — is unclear.

Republicans say while they are in the minority, they do not necessarily represent a minority viewpoint. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll found that fewer than half of California voters favored Brown’s proposal to renew two-year-old increases in the sales, personal income and vehicle taxes for another five years.

They said their requests were reasonable.

“This was an honest attempt to try to make sure that we were all on the same page, make sure that we’re all starting at the same point, and try to see if there was some type of resolve that could be reached,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga.

Before Brown cut off the budget talks, a group of five Republican senators and later, the Senate minority leaders, sought rollbacks in public employee pensions, a hard cap on future state spending and regulatory reforms.

They said that was their price for putting up two Republican votes in each house of the Legislature for Brown’s proposal to ask California voters to extend temporary sales, income and vehicle taxes. Brown sought five years of increased taxes; Republicans wanted to limit the tax renewals to 18 months.

But the wish-list submitted by Dutton, more than two months after Brown released his budget proposal for the 2011-12 fiscal year, included far more, such as changing the firing process for teachers, restoring funding for county fairs and moving next year’s presidential primary to March.

The governor said he supported pension and regulatory reforms and a spending cap, but said Republicans would not agree to call a special election on the tax extensions “unless I agree to an ever-changing list of collateral demands.”

Dutton, in a briefing with reporters last week, denied that the seven-page list represented demands, although he declined to clarify whether any GOP lawmakers would have supported a budget package that did not include everything on the list.

Republicans also were seeking a hard spending cap until the state has paid down its debts, a 10 percent rainy day reserve and reinstatement of a proposed constitutional amendment floated last year that would use “pay as you go” budgeting. Such a process requires that funding be identified before any new programs are introduced.

Long-sought education reforms also were on the list but were unlikely to be achieved during the governor’s short window for a deal. Most California teachers work under contracts reached through collective bargaining with powerful teachers’ unions.

The GOP wish list included allowing teacher layoffs, transfers and reassignments to be “based on teacher performance instead of seniority.” Republicans also wanted to extend the deadline for school districts to notify employees about possible layoffs.

Talks hung up, though, largely on major portions of Brown’s plan that would have required too much compromise from both sides, such as eliminating community redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones, which Republicans support and want to maintain.

Republicans also staunchly oppose his proposal to end a corporate tax break referred to as “single sales factor,” in which out-of-state companies are allowed to choose their preferred rate of taxation.

Brown called it a “billion-dollar tax break to giant companies that keep jobs out of California,” but Dutton said it was established only through a previous bipartisan legislative compromise. Trying to undo deals that are “written in blood,” he said, further erodes trust with Democrats.

“You want Republicans to say yes to your stuff, but then you try to undo the things that have bipartisan support,” he said.

With voters’ approval last fall of Proposition 25, changing the legislative vote requirement to pass a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority, Republicans’ clout in the budget process is even further eroded. They were able to wield influence with Brown only because he wanted to balance the state’s $26.6 billion budget shortfall with new tax revenue and a roughly equal amount in spending cuts.

As legislative Republicans ponder their next move, Democrats appear to be trying to go around them.

Brown already is making a play to seize on one of their top issues, unveiling a slate of pension rollback proposals he will bring to the state Legislature. Both sides have said restructuring pensions was not among the items that hung up budget talks.

Dutton rejected Democrats’ claim that Republicans had made themselves irrelevant by pushing for too much.

“We’ll keep doing our job, we’ll keep speaking up, we’ll keep giving them our suggestions, our thoughts and our ideas. Do we have the ability to force them to accept them or deal with them if they don’t want to? No, we don’t,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re irrelevant. We’re only irrelevant if we fail to bring up thoughts and ideas. And you are not going to silence us.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

  • Hughes

    With Jerry Bob and the control the big state employee unions have of HIM. Yes Jerry the pulic employees unions are controlling YOU California is going further downhill. Sadly the hard working small businesses will leave. It is more profitable and a welcoming enivornment in other states.

    • Fred

      Yup, unions own that boy.

  • billie aldridge

    more gop crookes


    Well, it’s time to repeal Prop 13 and place the Republicans out of business here in California. Being a Republican here in California is completely irrelivant in today’s society.

    • Fred

      In “today’s society” of welfare and entitlements? Good plan knucklehead. What you haven’t got sorted out is that when those that aren’t on the dole or employed by the state, the real economic engine of California, get fed up with stupid levels of spending, mind numbing regulation, and incentive crushing taxation get fed up, throw in the towel and leave the state, as so many have, it will all collapse. Then you and all of your similarily aligned buddies can swirl in your own filth.

      • moonlightowl

        Yup, I agree with Fred. Fact is, I am taking my cash and my expertise and moving to a more friendly state.

  • Nolan's Report

    It has only been through the hard work of state employee unions that they have a pension fund, a pension fund that was very well funded until 2008 thanks to state employee unions. Under the administration of the state GOP it lost a horrendous amount of money, and has had to take advantage of the PPA 2010 to stay out of the RED!

    It is not unions who are driving up the state budget but the GOP who want to maintain tax breaks for corp’s like GE at the working man and labors expense. The Republicans and Tea Baggers have gone too far with their limited power and have stopped the majority rule.

    Jerry kick ass and get it done! The terminator was useless and you can be a real Governor!

    • Taxed Enuf

      Your outrage at GE is misdirected. GE is very close to the Obama administration, so close that Jeffery Immelt, the GE CEO has been appointed to BHO’s economic advisory council on jobs. GE is heavily aligned with the Dems.

      You are similarly misinformed as to the fortunes of CalPERS. The GOP had nothing to do with its losses. It got creamed in the stock market meltdown in large part because of crooks like Villalobos (a CalPERS board member) and Steven Rattner from Quadrangle. Rattner served as Obama’s car czar for a brief period, until he got outted on another crooked pension fund scheme in New York. And, Dems, the lot of them.

      Don’t take my word for it, look it up.

      Basing your opinion on facts rather than propoganda is a healthy thing.

    • moonlightowl

      Uh, Grey Davis, remember him??????? He broke this state in 2, bloated teh budget and then got recalled for his incompetence, but, as usual. The liberal mind set just will not allow for the taking of personal responsibility.

  • moonlightowl

    Yup, as usual, the Liberal version of Bipartisan is that everyone agrees with them or they are called Republican, Racist, elitist etc etc. I was in High school when Jerry Brown was Governor last time. He wrecked this state and he is who supported prop 13. It was his baby. Jerry then expanded government offices and placed more people on welfare and opened our southern boarder. Jerry is a waste of human space, a pure politician with no care for the people. He just wants to be in government, get the check, take the graft and blame the people, always blame the people.

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