Gov. Jerry Brown continued his statewide quest to drum up support for his controversial budget proposal with a stop today in San Francisco, where the Bay Area Council expressed support for the plan and praised Brown for ending years of “childish” budget negotiations.
“We don’t like everything in this proposal, but we need to be part of the solution, and we support the governor’s proposal overall,” council president Jim Wunderman said of the plan, which calls for a special election in which voters would be asked to extend temporary tax increases for another five years.
The tax extensions would generate $12 billion in revenue, which would combine with $12.5 billion in spending cuts to help chip away at the state’s $25.4 billion deficit.
The governor has asked legislators to approve the ballot measure by next week so it could go before voters in time to enact the budget on June 15, but crucial Republican support for the special election and has not been forthcoming.
Brown met today with the executive committee of the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored public policy organization, in hopes of earning an endorsement that would put pressure on Republican lawmakers.
“The experience we had was profoundly refreshing because it was an honest conversation,” Wunderman said after today’s meeting, which took place at the Bank of America tower. “For the past decade, the budget has been what I would call a childish experience.”
He said Brown’s proposal breaks a cycle of fiscal irresponsibility that included conjuring up fake revenue and putting off hard decisions year after year.
Brown called the Bay Area Council’s support a “very important endorsement.”
“This (proposal) is a very important building block in finally putting our budget crisis behind us, and that is exactly what my goal is,” Brown said after today’s meeting.
He said he also agreed to the organization’s requests that he pursue long-term pension and regulatory reform.
“I’m open to suggestions, but they have to be able to win enough support to get through the Legislature,” Brown said.
Democrats would be turned off if the budget proposal went too far to the right, he said.
Asked about the progress he was making with convincing Republican lawmakers to back the special election, Brown joked that the legislators across the aisle were like Nicodemus, a biblical figure who only visited Jesus at night.
“There is some interest,” he said of Republican support. “There’s also fear and some differences, and we’re working through those. I think we have a good chance, but I’m not ready to call it yet.”
Brown vowed that if Republicans refuse to allow the ballot measure or if voters reject the tax extensions, the budget would include $25 billion in spending cuts.
Last week, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce agreed to support the proposal following conversations with Brown. The group said in a statement that tax extensions were not their first choice but would be better than the alternative.
The Valley Industry & Commerce Association outside Los Angeles also announced its support for putting the tax issue before voters.
In addition to the special election, Brown’s proposal includes $1.7 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal, $1 billion in cuts to the University of California and California State University systems, and $580 million in cuts to state operations and employee compensation.
Janna Brancolini, Bay City News
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