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March 8, 2011 > Brown: Still optimistic about Calif. budget plan

Brown: Still optimistic about Calif. budget plan

By Robin Hindery, The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP), Mar 04 - Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday he's still optimistic he can get the necessary Republican support to pass a budget plan to address the state's $26.6 billion deficit, as he picked up an endorsement from an influential Northern California business group.

Brown met in San Francisco with the Bay Area Council, which endorsed his proposal to cut about $12.5 billion in spending and ask voters to extend for five years sales, income and vehicle taxes that are set to expire this year.

Bay Area Council president Jim Wunderman said the business group wasn't happy about higher taxes but appreciated the Democratic governor's willingness to talk honestly about the state's fiscal crisis - something he said state lawmakers have often failed to do.

``The day of reckoning has finally arrived, and the only way through it is with a spirit of shared sacrifice and grown-up behavior,'' he said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Wunderman added, ``An adult has entered the room, and his name is Jerry Brown.''

Brown has set a March 10 deadline for lawmakers to place the tax measure on a June special election ballot.

On Thursday, the Legislature's joint budget committee passed a spending plan similar to the one Brown proposed. It now must receive a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and Senate, which would require at least two Republican votes in each chamber even if every Democrat votes yes.

Brown acknowledged that some Democrats may oppose the budget package because of the deep spending cuts. But several Republican lawmakers have shown they might be willing to back it, he said, though he declined to give names.

``There's some interest,'' he said. ``There's also fear and some differences.''

The alternative to the tax extensions wouldn't be appealing to anyone, he warned.

``If the taxes go down, the cuts will be doubled; it's either $12.5 billion in cuts or $25 billion,'' he said.

The Bay Area Council's formal endorsement of Brown's efforts came one day after the president of the California Chamber of Commerce said the business group would stand behind any lawmaker who votes for a comprehensive solution to the state's financial woes. The chamber has not taken a position on Brown's budget, but it supported former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to implement the temporary tax increases as part of a 2009 budget deal.

Brown said he would spend most of the next week ``shuttling between'' lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and trying to strike a balance among their often conflicting demands. He joked that his meetings with Republicans might take place ``under cover of darkness.''

Lawmakers are working to meet Brown's deadline, although the exact date when the budget would have to pass the Legislature to get on the ballot by June is unclear. State law requires that it be sent 131 days in advance - a deadline that has already passed - but the Legislature can write its own law allowing that to be waived.

Ballots must be sent to overseas military voters at least 60 days before an election, according to the secretary of state's office.

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