Brown's GOP Critique Heats Up

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Getty/Justin Sullivan

Whether Governor Jerry Brown is making any headway with finding even a modicum of Republican support under the Capitol dome for his taxes election is unknown.

But what's crystal clear is that Brown has abandoned his gentle prodding of GOP legislators, resorting instead to jabs and attacks that seem to symbolize a sense of urgency at salvaging the budget plan that has dominated his first 100 days in office.

The governor made his frustration plainly clear at a midday event on the Capitol steps, an annual event for the families of crime victims. Brown was ad libbing on the need for effective punishment, including parole and probation, when he veered into the politics of the state budget.

"I'm hoping that your courage will become contagious and inspire the reluctant few Republicans who we need to join up and get our budget done," said Brown. "I know that's a political advertisement, but so be it."

The governor didn't elaborate on the message afterwards, instead blowing by reporters as he made a beeline back to his Capitol office. The critique comes on the heels of his tour of southern California and a day before he likely returns to the subject in a San Francisco speech to the Bay Area Council business group.

Brown's GOP jabs were fast and furious on the Sunday KNBC-TV morning program NewsConference.

"To ask (Republicans) to let the people vote on taxes would be like the Pope allowing Catholics to vote on abortion," said the governor. "It's a dogma."

Even with that, the governor suggested his trip wasn't about trying to pressure Republicans, but rather to inform the constituents of those legislators what another $15 billion in spending reductions would look like.

"I don't want it said, 'Why did you do that behind closed doors in Sacramento?'" Brown told KNBC's Conan Nolan.

The governor also rejected the idea that the issue of changing public employee pensions had created the Sacramento logjam, including assertion (after assertion after, you get the picture) from Republicans that public employee unions had squashed it.

"That's a canard," he said on the TV program.

Brown's options for the additional tax revenues (which, in addition to the big three he seeks to place on the ballot -- income, sales, vehicles -- includes the scrapping of a corporate tax break) are now limited to some sort of post-July 1 enactment, too late for the fiscal year.

And that's at the very best, which may be why some on the left continue to muse whether the negotiations with Republicans aren't just postponing the real day of reckoning: the one where, after the talks break down or the voters reject the taxes, much deeper cuts will still have to be made.

That line of thought -- Brown and Democrats should force the issue into the spotlight -- was laid out today in an online column by veteran editorial writer Peter Schrag:

By now the list of possible – or even necessary – cuts to get the budget in balance without the taxes is hardly news, though one reporter still described it as "surreal": close one or more UC campuses; fire thousands of teachers and shut down the schools a few weeks early; cut cops, close prisons...

What's certain is that these are not surreal ideas, and they're not fright lists. If California means to get off its treadmill of fudges and deferrals without taxes, there's no way other than the bloody road. The faster those road trips can bring that home, the better.

The governor doesn't show any sign of buying into that argument, at least not yet. For now, he seems focused on attempts to place the public blame squarely at the feet of Republicans -- a strategy which is probably a stopgap measure on the path towards his as-yet-undefined Budget Plan B.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • Peter Glick

    The Governor joins his wife yelling at Republicans; not listening.

    Enough of the Governor saying the Republicans will not negotiate. The Governor has offered one and only one option: the present budget cuts and vote for taxes. No other compromise. He said if you have a better plan than I will listen. Wrong, he will not listen to anyone.

    A question: has there been any programs, commissions, board or other government program cut by the Democratic Legislature. Or are there only reductions in funding for programs. If our State government structure is like a sponge then the reductions will only ring the water out. As soon as the Republicans vote for taxes, the sponge will be refilled. What we need to hear the Governor say is we do not need this program, commission or board. In other words, we need to trim the sponge of government not merely ring it out.

  • whathappened

    A shorted school year is a phoney choice. Why not just cut their pay say 20 percent over 110 thousand down to 5 percent at 70 and consolidate the 1000 schools districts. Actually the schools are getting as much money as before it is only a few hundred dollar less a student about 11 thousand for k-12. Brown is the most dangerous person ever elected he can pass any law and he will destroy the state before cutting anyone

  • surfon

    Start by repealing three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentencing laws. this will relive the prison overcrowding. any funding to prisons should be tied to reducing the recitivisim rate. we need to deal with the underlying mental health issues not criminalize them.

  • hello

    Can more commissions be cut? Sure. That may save a few million. (Probably not that much, but let’s say it will for argument’s sake.) Can you cut teachers’ salaries? Well, you can fire them and replace them with substitutes that rotate in and out of the classroom. (We actually know that this will be worse for the kids than cutting the school year.) So actually, closing the universities, letting people out of jail, cutting police, fire fighters, and school year is the Best option under an all-cuts scenario. And for the conservatives commenting: I do have one final question, why are you so adamantly opposed to letting me vote? I want to vote. I made sure I was registered (we just moved) so I could vote. Why won’t you let me? I asked this question of a conservative friend of mine and his reason (in a nutshell) was that he was afraid I would win. What’s yours?