"Every Day, Keep Pounding Away"

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KQED/John Myers

If you didn't already know what Governor Jerry Brown's budget strategy is at the moment, the above quote pretty much says it all.

More than a month after his self-imposed deadline expired and facing either equal or intensified GOP opposition, Brown today offered up another photo op defense of his budget plan -- the only option he seems to have at the moment -- this time, focusing on the transfer of public safety operations to local law enforcement.

And the governor rejected suggestions that he abandon his campaign promise of sending the tax question to the voters in favor of simply asking legislators to exercise their constitutional power to approve the taxes.

"I think my plan is sound," said Brown on the question of an election. "I think when we have such a matter of profound importance, and given the utter distrust of government at all levels, that this decision properly rests with the people."

And then this reality: "The only (Republican) votes we're going to get are votes to put this on the ballot, and we haven't even gotten those yet."

The governor continued with what could be called his Bad Things Tour of California, this time asking law enforcement officials from around the state to join him in warning of the dangers in rejecting his budget realignment (PDF) of public safety programs, which is linked to a portion of the $11 billion in income, sales, and vehicle tax extensions.

The Capitol briefing room stage included Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca; Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin; San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos; Irvine Police Chief Dave Maggard; and Fresno County Chief Probation Officer Linda Penner.

"This plan, appropriately funded, will get the job done," said Penner. She pointed, in particular, to the governor's proposed extension of current car tax (VLF) rates, which funds juvenile probation services. And without that funding, says Penner? "Juvenile crime will be on the rise."

A Republican legislative leader raised the gloom and doom stakes even higher after the Guv's event, saying the plan was anything but good for public safety.

"There will be mass victimization," said Assemblymember Jim Nielsen (R-Biggs). "The blood will be on the streets."

(Nielsen later suggested that last comment wasn't meant to be taken literally. He also declined to discuss the Brown plan in a Capitol hallway with Merced Sheriff Pazin, who was standing right next to him. It seemed a simple suggestion, made admittedly by me. "No, I'm not going to be participating in a debate," Nielsen said.)

But the public safety realignment issue is just one of several hot button fights. And at the end of the day, Governor Brown seems no closer to his goal line than he was almost a month ago. While he rejected the idea of scrapping the election altogether, he did sound as though he's latched on the Capitol buzz du jour -- namely, that the Legislature could somehow 'conditionally' approve the tax extensions with a final ratification at an election in September of November.

That would, it's believed, allow a budget to be enacted that wasn't all spending cuts while also allowing Republicans to save face on any 'tax hike,' and Brown to save face on his campaign promise to take taxes to the ballot.

"That's the only thing that's left," said Brown on that option. "We'll figure out a way. One way or another, we're going to have a great debate, and we're going to get a vote."

But even as yet another suggestion surfaced that a deal's out there for the making, the governor remains without actual GOP support under the Capitol dome. So much so that at the end of today's press Q&A, he joked that any reporter who "can find one Republican that will vote taxes" will be quickly ushered into his office and perhaps later treated to dinner.

Reporters love a freebie, but (for now, at least) this one seems impossible to get.

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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.
  • Earl Richards

    Brown is blackmailing Californians into voting for his tax extensions. These budget cuts will prolong the recession. There is very little difference between Brown’s budget and previous budgets, because Brown’s budget is master-minded by Big Oil and Corporate America. There is no provision for closing corporate and commercial tax loopholes, no oil extraction tax and no oil corporation, windfall-profits tax. Californians pay the highest price for gasoline in the nation. Brown’s budget is the same, because again, it picks on the most vulnerable.

  • Vince Boston

    Conversation overheard at the San Mateo Starbucks between two 60-somethings.

    Tom: “What do think of the state budget crisis?”

    Jerry: “I don’t know what to think. Seems like I have been hearing both the Republicans and the Democrats yelling “California is in a financial crisis and government finances must be done my Party’s way or the world will end” for 30 straight years. But the “imminent end-of-the-world” never happens. Neither Party has any credibility left with me.

    Tom: “You’re right about that! I used to try to figure out which Party was right and be a good citizen and cast my vote appropriately and all that. But I give up. I can’t figure it out. I’ve been worn out by all the confusing contradictory bullshit from both sides going back for decades. War on Poverty, War on Cancer, War on Drugs, War on Inflation, War on Terror, War on waste/fraud/abuse, War on the Deficit, War on War, yada yada yada, it’s all a perpetual the Boy Who Cried Wolf from both Parties.”

    Jerry: “Yeah, I’m so confused that I’ve just decided to tune-out all the politicians and so-called experts and just pay attention to what happens in the here and now right in front of me. As far as I’m concerned, there is no budget crisis in California until all the public teachers are out on strike, the kids are roaming the streets, the freeways are blocked with accidents because the Highway Patrol is on strike, all the DMV office doors are chained shut, the number of homeless and mentally-ill wandering around the streets and parks has doubled, and Watts is burning again. THEN there is a fiscal crisis. Until then, NO fiscal crisis. Ditto for the Feds. As long as my Social Security check keeps showing up, the postman comes to my house every day, and my MD accepts my MediCare card, I’m good. If there really is an impending trainwreck coming, as a good citizen I’d like to avoid it, and I do care about my grandchildren’s future. But both Party’s have each destroyed their own credibility all by themselves without any help from me. So what the hell else am I supposed to do?”

    Tom: “Yeah, it sure is frustrating. Oh well…..whatever. How about a refill?”