Top state Republican Dutton accuses governor of “scaring people”
By Chris Levister –
After months of bitter, fruitless negotiations with lawmakers in Sacramento over putting a tax measure on the ballot, Governor Jerry Brown took his budget battle to GOP strongholds.
Brown rolled into the Southland on Friday, for the first stop in a statewide road trip aimed at winning support for his plan to close the state’s $26.6 billion budget gap. His first stop: Arlanza Elementary School in Riverside.
Accompanied by State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Brown spent the morning mingling with students and teachers. Then he got down to business at a town hall-style meeting in the school’s auditorium.
“We have to have a balanced budget by June 30 and it’s either gonna be balanced by the extension of taxes or balanced with cuts,” he said.
"We have a divided state, and we have a divided nation, but unless we can pull together and understand our common objectives, we could be in for some very perilous times in the future," Brown said. It was his first Inland visit since the November election.
Legislators passed $14 billion in cuts and fund shifts – but can’t agree on how to solve the state’s remaining $12 billion deficit.
Riverside is in Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton's district. State Republican leaders, including Dutton, turned down invitations to attend Brown’s Riverside event.
Republican state lawmakers say the governor is employing scare tactics to goad voters into paying more taxes.
They’re calling for spending caps, pension overhaul and other cost-cutting approaches.
Brown's attempts to enlist local law enforcement and other officials to lobby GOP lawmakers won't work, Dutton said.
Throughout the weekend, local Republican officials stood with Brown as he made his case for an election on continuing current tax rates in order to close the remainder of the deficit. Even some who are opposed to the idea of continuing the taxes - along with other parts of the governor's budget plan - said they wanted the opportunity to vote.
Talks between Brown and Republicans all but collapsed last week when the governor refused to agree to GOP demands for a spending cap, revamped pensions and other government changes in exchange for considering a tax vote.
"I'll be more than happy to sit down with the governor," said Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga. "But I am not going to be a party to just maintaining the status quo and just keep doing what we've been doing, because what we've been doing isn't working."
The governor left open the possibility that he would sign legislation that extends the taxes with a public vote to come later. Such legislation would require support from at least two GOP lawmakers in each house.
Following the town hall meeting, Brown met privately with local law enforcement and city and county officials from Riverside and San Bernardino at the state office building in Riverside.
Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione, president of the California State Association of Counties, supports placing the tax extensions measure on the November ballot.
He said the county faces an additional loss of between $150 million and $170 million if the taxes aren't extended.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos said his office faces a $1.7 million budget cut if the taxes aren't extended. Ramos' counterpart in Riverside County, Paul Zellerbach, may be forced to cut $2.5 million.
San Bernardino County Sheriff Rod Hoops said local officials just want the budget problem solved.
"I just feel as a lifelong Republican, the party I have been affiliated with for a long time has backed itself into a corner," Hoops said. "The Democrats and Republicans together have to take off their partisan hats and fix this problem."
Michelle Scray, San Bernardino County's chief probation officer, said without the extension in vehicle taxes, her department faces an $8 million loss and no longer will be able to supervise highrisk offenders.
To no one’s surprise, Brown got an ear full from Inland officials on both sides of the political aisle over his proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones and replace them by giving local voters enhanced power to raise taxes for redevelopment.
As Brown and his entourage left the area for Los Angeles, they were treated to a parting message: several large signs conspicuously hoisted on city buildings that read "Another project brought to you by redevelopment.”
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