Labor Leader Says Skip the Election, Dems Still Back Brown

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KQED/John Myers

It would be wrong to say that Democrats who flocked to Sacramento for the party's weekend convention are unhappy with the course of action laid out by their standard bearer on solving the state budget mess.

But they do seem to be growing a little bit nervous. And in some corners, there was renewed talk that it's time for Governor Jerry Brown to scrap his plans for a special election and focus instead on wrangling GOP votes for taxes in the Legislature.

"Go ahead and do it," said Art Pulaski, executive director of the California Labor Federation. "I think it's time to say to the four [GOP] remaining members of both houses of this Legislature, 'We have to now vote to extend the current tax structure.'"

Pulaski is now the second leader of a powerful political group to urge Brown to let go of his 'taxes election' idea; last month, the president of the California Teachers Association made the same plea.

The governor didn't get the chance to make the case for his preferred path forward on the budget this weekend, after the late Saturday afternoon announcement that he was skipping the event to recover from removal of cancerous tissue from his nose.

(An aside: the Brown camp seem to have kept the health news quiet for as long as they could. The Guv actually had the procedure Friday. They also didn't tell a lot of folks; it was yours truly who broke the news late Saturday to the guy that would have to step in should Brown not be up to the job, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.)

Unlike the Republican convention slugfest, the Dems were a pretty happy bunch -- politically speaking, that is. But the comments of several delegates hinted that the euphoria of 2010's electoral clean sweep is giving way to more real life concerns about the California economy.

"I don't feel the poor and middle class are being represented," said Norma Burns, a delegate from Tulare County. Burns, a self-described big believer in Jerry Brown, nonetheless lamented the budget cuts that have been made so far and said she'd prefer more taxes on the wealthy, while the Guv has put forward an across-the-board tax plan.

Other Dems worried about what the governor and party leaders might have to give up in order to get GOP votes on a budget. An often mentioned fear was that Dems would make too many concessions on changing public employee pensions. That may have been exacerbated by general convention angst and anger over attacks on public employee unions. Signs all over the Sacramento Convention Center invoked the political battle in Wisconsin in the current drama over outsourcing government services in Costa Mesa.

KQED/John Myers

Party leaders vowed to fight back on Republican demands, be they in Sacramento or Washington, D.C. And Lt. Gov. Newsom said perhaps the best Republican counter-strategy is to expand the Democratic party's focus on long-term economic growth.

"We cannot allow the jobs agenda to be advanced by the Republican party," said Newsom. The 'lite guv', who traveled to Texas recently with GOP legislators to talk about the two states' business climates, said the GOP jobs pitch comes with too many environmental and workplace safety rollbacks.

"We're in control" in Sacramento, said Newsom of his party. "You don't need four Republicans to put an economic development plan in place."

Still, Newsom conceded that most of the questions he was getting at the convention were about the budget crisis and whether or not the Guv needs a new plan B. Newsom said he's sticking with Brown, and delegates seem to agree with that course of action.

That's not to say they won't want more... but for now, it's Jerry's call.

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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.
  • B. Cayenne Bird

    Yes, pressure from our mounting campaign Liberals to Recall Jerry Brown and the public reaction to him giving prison guards hundreds of millions of our tax dollars under SB 151 in increased salaries/benefits caused him to make this token gesture of cancelling the death row expansion. But it is a drop in the bucket compared to the $7.7 BILLION in new prison construction that is awaiting funding, already approved by the legislature under AB 900.

    And that figure doesn’t include the BILLIONS that it will take to operate these news prisons every year. Brown was the one who passed the determinate sentencing laws that caused the prison overcrowding crisis in the first place. Giving 22,000 teachers pink slips and in the same week increasing salaries to prison guards was over the top. Those 400,000 community college students who can’t get an education will end up as fodder for the prison and war machines.

    There are 54,000 non-violent prisoners who are getting out anyway who could be released to eliminate about $12 billion in new prison construction costs.

    We can do better than Jerry Brown and we must stop SB 151. Liberals to Recall Jerry Brown can be found on Facebook.