By Chris Levister –
Gov. Jerry Brown took to YouTube Sunday asking Californians to let lawmakers know they want a chance to vote on how to deal with the state’s $26.6 billion budget shortfall.
The state Legislature made a series of tough cuts to the state budget last week, eliminating billions in programs and services. Now, Brown wants to let the people vote on whether to extend currently existing taxes or make even deeper cuts.
“This is a matter that’s too big and too irreversible to leave just to those you have elected,” said Brown. “This is a time when the people themselves can gather together in a special election and make the hard choice.”
Without an extension of currently existing taxes, Brown said balancing the budget would require drastic cuts to “our University, to education, to health care, to police services, to fire services, and many, many other things.”
“Would you like the chance to cast this vote or would you think it’s appropriate to shut out the people of California?”
Brown also reminded Californians that there is no time for partisan squabbles when the state is facing a severe budget crisis.
“I don’t see this as a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Brown said in his three-minute 17 second video. “This is a matter of all of us thinking as Californians first and acting in solidarity to grapple with problems that have been avoided too long.”
The Legislature began chipping away at the deficit last week, primarily by cutting health care services for seniors and the poor.
Brown wants voters to decide whether to extend temporary increases in the personal income, sales and vehicle taxes enacted two years ago. If voters approve, those taxes would bring in an estimated $9.2 billion a year for five more years. That is on top of $12.5 billion in spending cuts.
Legislative Republicans so far have blocked the plan, with time running out on calling a June special election. The Democratic governor needs at least two Republican votes in each house to move the tax measure forward. There is no evidence he has even one Republican vote in either house.
While no Republicans support the plan, five GOP senators have engaged in discussions with Brown and Democrats. They want pension reform, a state spending cap and regulatory changes, primarily to environmental rules they say stymie economic development.
New Field Poll finds solid support for special election
Brown’s pitch on YouTube comes on the heels of a new Field poll showing he would be in a good position to sell voters on his proposals -- if the measures ever got on the ballot.
The poll released Monday finds that 48 percent of voters approve of Brown's job performance, including 43 percent of voters in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The survey shows voters are more negative toward tax increases than tax extensions, said poll director Mark DiCamillo. He noted the poll shows a majority of voters support an equal mix of taxes and cuts, as well as a special election to decide taxes.
Random polls taken outside Riverside City Hall and San Bernardino City Hall this week, reflected similar results:
A majority of those asked support Brown's proposal to hold an election on taxes, and a series of largely symbolic spending-reduction measures seem to have resonated, too. They include Brown's recall of thousands of state-issued cell phones and cars, and his ban on state purchases of knickknacks.
“I think he's doing everything he can to save money while preserving the most essential services,” said firefighter Ryan Gonzales who lives in the Coachella Valley. “He ordered government employees to turn in their cell phones, stuff like that.”
“I would agree that the Republicans are obstructionists. Let the voters decide if they want the tax extension,” said U.S. Army veteran Darol C. Tucker. “Sure most people are opposed to higher taxes but these lawmakers have to do more than just posture on the sidelines. The state is in serious trouble.”
I’m pretty darn leery of the socalled GOP Five,” said Herbert Rozman, a San Bernardino business owner. Their defense of no new taxes is largely rhetoric; they don’t have an alternate plan.”
“I think we should force our elected officials to do what they were elected to do. Pass a balanced budget,” said James Housel. “Look at the long term negative impact of other voter approved initiatives such as 73, 209 and 8. Why would some uninformed unemployed guy trying to keep food on his table vote for higher taxes?”
“You would think lawmakers would simply take the pulse of their constituents and get this done. But it turns out we voters are terribly confused. We want to rein in government spending, but we remain steadfastly against having our taxes raised. Soaring oil prices are enough,” said Rose Percy of Redlands.
“I’m all for a special election but it's the sense of feeling overwhelmed by the pamphlets, emails, advertisements, news media and the official information that we get, that discourage people from coming out to vote, said Pablo Contreras a local grounds keeper.
Brown, a Democrat, has missed his self-imposed deadline to put a special election on tax extensions before voters, and lawmakers say it’s increasingly unlikely that any such measure could be placed on the ballot June 7, when several municipalities hold local elections.
Still, he was upbeat in the YouTube spot, which was filmed at his office.
“Yes, there's some fighting among the parties,” he said. “But, amazingly, there's been a lot of cooperation and a lot of progress.”
He concluded, “If we pull together, if we make the tough decisions, if we exercise the measure of discipline that the times call out for, California will continue to prosper in the years ahead.”
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