Governor balks at GOP demands as budget talks teeter
Gov. Jerry Brown accused GOP lawmakers of paralyzing budget negotiations by introducing dozens of new demands Friday.
The governor appeared to lose patience after Republicans gave him a seven-page document of policy changes they say need to be implemented before they would be willing to vote for his budget. The dozens of items on their list include such wide-ranging proposals as ending the seniority system for teachers facing layoffs, moving next year’s presidential primary to March and restoring funding to protect rural lands from development.
The document also asks Brown to abandon his push to eliminate redevelopment agencies, rewrite a tax formula favorable to corporations and ax a corporate tax break for businesses hiring workers in blighted areas.
Brown spokesman Gil Duran characterized the list as “a hodgepodge.”
“This is basically Republicans trying to ram through an agenda that does not reflect the fact that we have a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature,” he said. “This was a list of everything they wish they could have.”
Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), vice chairman of the budget panel, said Republicans weren’t seeking everything, but rather significant concessions from Brown that have not been forthcoming.
Brown needs two GOP votes in each legislative house to put his plan for billions in extended taxes before voters in a June election. He told Republicans that he would consider supporting some policy changes they have long sought, including a scaling back of public pensions, stricter limits on state spending and regulatory changes.
Those were among the GOP’s chief demands, but the list goes far beyond those categories.
In a statement, the Republicans said the changes were necessary to get the “state back on track.”
“Republicans were accused of being the party of ‘no,’ and now Republicans are accused of being the party of ‘too much yes,’ ” Huff and Senate minority leader Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) said in the statement.
Dutton and Huff delivered the document, which they characterized as “a package of reforms,” to Brown during an hour-long meeting in the governor’s office midday Friday.
In the document, Republicans identify many ideas that they say Brown has brushed aside, including applying pension rollbacks to current employees and forcing workers to retire later and pay more to fund their pensions. One area in which Brown has already agreed to concessions, according to the document, is placing a cap on pensions for government workers: “Admin: Ok w/Cap,” the document says.
The document says Brown has rejected a permanent cap on spending. Republicans are now proposing to limit the growth of state spending to the rate of population and inflation growth until state budgetary debt has been erased and the state has a 10% rainy day fund for fiscal emergencies.
Duran could not confirm that the administration has taken any of those positions.
Friday evening, Gareth Elliot, one of Brown’s top legislative liaisons, delivered the governor’s response to Dutton’s office. That letter asked that the talks stay focused on changes to the pension system, a spending cap and an easing of government regulations, according to administration officials.
“We’re asking them to narrow the scope, be reasonable and move forward on what is possible,” Duran said.
Neither Brown nor Republicans would release a copy of the letter.
Dutton, Huff and top Republican staffers huddled into the night to decide how to proceed.
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