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Jerry Brown warns GOP legislators he may go around them on budget

Reporting from Blythe, Calif. -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday warned Republican lawmakers that if they failed to negotiate a budget compromise with Democrats, he would seek to go around them.

That could include signing a budget that has only Democratic support, and having initiatives put before voters on the tax questions that have brought bipartisan talks to a standstill. He has been frustrated by the inability to win four Republican votes needed for the Legislature to put the tax issue on the ballot.

“I may be in initiative circulation … in the next few months,” he said, after attending a groundbreaking ceremony for what is scheduled to be the largest solar-energy project in the world.

“I’m going to solve the problem. I’d like to solve it in a week or two, but if I can’t … I can take actions of many kinds, including going to the people themselves through the direct initiative process.”

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Under that scenario, Brown said, lawmakers would have to make deeper cuts to schools and other state programs until voters have a chance to vote on higher taxes.

“It’s more time consuming, more devastating to our schools and more expensive, but I am going to stop at nothing to get this budget done in a sustainable, balanced way,” he said.

Brown also implied that he could work for an even larger Democratic legislative majority in the 2012 elections that could relegate GOP lawmakers to virtual obscurity. He accused Republicans of “undermining the state and thumbing their nose at the people and their democratic rights.

“I can’t overcome that in two weeks,” he said, “but I can overcome it in two years.”

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Democrats believe they have a chance in 2012 to reach the two-thirds supermajorities that are needed in both legislative houses to raise taxes and fees. The supermajority is no longer necessary for budgets to pass.

Brown downplayed talk of a rift within his own party that his swift veto of a Democratic spending plan Thursday may have caused. Legislative leaders had harsh words for him, and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) halted confirmation proceedings on all of the governor’s appointees.

“I praise the Democrats,” Brown said. “I know they have a little bit of heartburn because of the way things are turning out…. This has been a hard blow. I understand that. I empathize with it. But I’m not going to break my campaign pledge” against gimmicky budgets.

Brown cited tricky bookkeeping as part of his reason for vetoing the budget Democrats sent him Wednesday.

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He said he could live with Steinberg’s appointments move. “It’s a small price to pay for leveling with the people and not engaging in the practices of the past that built up this deficit.”

anthony.york@latimes.com


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