Jerry Brown predicts tough budget year, says he 'passed' first year in office
By David Siders
The Sacramento Bee Published: Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
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Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he expects the first half of the new year to be dominated again by California's budget problems, as he proposes more spending cuts and tries to clear the November ballot of tax measures that might compete with his.
"Pulling it all together," Brown told reporters at the Capitol in Sacramento, "will be probably just as hard as last year."
The Democratic governor said he is meeting with business and labor leaders about his tax proposal and is seeking "a clean election, a clean shot, one major measure" for the November ballot. His plan – which would raise an estimated $7 billion a year by temporarily increasing the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners – is the most likely to pass, he said.
"One of the things about elections, you want them simple," Brown said, adding that complexity only "gives fodder to the opposition."
Brown said the California Chamber of Commerce may not formally endorse his tax proposal, but many of its member businesses will support it.
"I did find that, in talking to very wealthy people, they don't get overly excited about increasing their taxes," Brown said. "Generally, they're more willing to tolerate it than embrace it."
Earlier this month, Brown announced $980 million in midyear cuts to colleges, child care and other programs, and is expected to propose further spending cuts in his annual budget plan next month.
He said a "decent budget" is required to demonstrate to voters before November that "we've done a credible job here in Sacramento," adding that K-12 schools may be spared if higher taxes are approved. "My budget will give more to schools that they got last year," he said.
Brown, returning to Sacramento this year for a third term, spent much of the first six months in office trying unsuccessfully to broker a tax deal with Republican lawmakers. He said he will not rely on them anymore.
"There will be discussions, but I don't believe that the Republicans can or will vote for any kind of a tax or a vote on a tax," he said.
In wide-ranging remarks about his first year back in office, Brown touted the budget he signed this summer and the spending reductions it included, saying his administration had "solved half the problem in a fourth of the time."
He declined to assign himself a letter grade.
"I think I took this semester on pass or fail, anyway," Brown said, "and in that case I've clearly passed."
Asked what he learned this year, Brown said, "That's always a dicey question, because if I admit I learned something new, then I have to admit I didn't know something. But if I said I knew everything, then that wouldn't be very persuasive or attractive."
He said, "I learned that the Republicans can't vote for a tax … cannot vote to give the people a vote on the taxes."
Brown said addressing California's budget problems "may take a term or two to fully complete," but he remained noncommittal about whether he will seek re-election.
"I don't know how I'm going to feel in a couple of years, because this could get pretty tiring or frustrating," Brown said. "So far it's very exhilarating and exciting. I mean, I can't tell you how much I like being governor of California. I was telling my wife the other day, 'I like being married, I like living in my house, I like being in Oakland, I like coming to Sacramento to do whatever I have to do here.'"