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Brown, Democrats Work 2 Fronts On Calif. Budget

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature worked Friday along two different tracks with the hope that one will lead to a budget deal before the start of California’s new fiscal year next week.

Brown met with Assembly Speaker John Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to discuss an alternative budget plan the governor could support if it were passed by a simple majority of Democrats.

The governor, meanwhile, kept insisting he still has time to persuade Republican lawmakers to support his call for a special election so voters can decide whether to increase taxes.

“The speaker continues to meet with the governor, the pro tem and Republican leaders to find a comprehensive budget solution and will continue to do so over the weekend,” said Perez’s spokeswoman Robin Swanson. “He is focused on delivering a budget agreement that doesn’t make further devastating cuts to schools and public safety.”

California’s fiscal year ends Thursday, and for the first time lawmakers are feeling additional pressure to resolve the state’s budget crisis in a timely manner. They are losing their salaries and living expenses until they balance the state’s annual spending plan by closing a $9.6 billion budget deficit

Lawmakers from both parties this week sounded increasingly pessimistic that Brown could get a special election. Some even proclaimed the governor’s plan dead.

“Is Plan A dead? I’ll leave it to the governor to announce the wake and the funeral services but we are proceeding to try to develop again the best majority vote budget that we can with the governor,” Steinberg said Thursday.

Democratic lawmakers are seeking the governor’s input on a majority-vote budget that he could sign after he vetoed their initial budget package last week. Brown had said the Democrats’ spending plan relied too much on borrowing and legal maneuvers.

It’s unclear how the majority party could put together a new plan without taxes, especially when its leaders have pledged not to make further cuts to education and public safety.

Brown has said since his gubernatorial campaign that he would seek a statewide vote on the increases, the last of which expire June 30.

This week he said he remained in negotiations to get the four Republican votes he needs to call a special election. Such an election would let voters weigh in on whether to extend increases in sales, vehicle and personal income taxes for up to five years.

But Republicans for months have resisted Brown’s call for a special election without promises of pension reform and a state spending cap, possibly as companion ballot initiatives. Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway said those reforms weren’t enough to get her support for a special election.

Senate Republicans said they were willing to let Californians vote on tax extensions but accused the governor of being unwilling to compromise because of pressure from public employee unions.

“It’s the public unions and the governor who have become the problem in this budget negotiation, not Republicans,” said Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, vice chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

The governor’s spokesman, Gil Duran, said it was Republicans who refused to allow a special election vote to go forward, even when the governor made concessions earlier this year.

“They’ve again shown what they’re best at — grandstanding without solving problems,” Duran said.

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

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