Republicans block Jerry Brown's budget move. What are his options now?
California's governor is unable to persuade GOP lawmakers to OK his plan to solve a looming budget shortfall. Jerry Brown might try an end run, if it's legal, or present an all-cuts budget.
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Brown wanted a special election by June 7, and the law requires 131 days' advance notice for electioneers to write, print, and distribute ballots. But that requirement appears to be malleable. In 2009, Secretary of State Debra Bowen prepared a special election in 88 days. “I don’t think anyone knows the drop-dead deadline,” says Ms. O’Connor. “When there’s a will, there’s a way. But no one knows.”Skip to next paragraph
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She predicts that much politicking will go on at seven large social gatherings set for Tuesday evening in Sacramento. One is a giant gathering about emergency relief for earthquake- and tsunami-stricken Japan. Another is a benefit honoring the cofounder of the United Farm Workers, where Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker John Pérez are all expected to be speaking.
“These are the kinds of events where people can rub shoulders with one another in an informal setting and make nice,” says O’Connor. “My bet is that they will talk these things through without pointing fingers at each other – and with an all-cuts budget hanging over their heads, [they] will realize more fully what is at stake.”
Other analysts are not so sure.
“There are times in life where all choices are painful and risky. For California’s elected officials, 2011 is one of those times,” says Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.
Another option is that Brown could have the Legislature put the tax extensions on the ballot by a simple majority vote. Proponents of that plan suggest that this would be legal because the measure would simply be an extension of taxes, not an imposition of new taxes (which requires the two-thirds vote). A legislative counsel approached by Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton concurred with this conclusion.
But “Brown and the legislative Democrats would rather not do it that way,” says Mr. Pitney.
“There would be legal questions surrounding such a maneuver. More important, it would deprive the Democrats of any political cover. But if this stalemate persists, it will be their only option” – unless they can live with a budget that cuts current state spending by about 27 percent.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Susan Bowen as the secretary of state of California. Debra Bowen is the California secretary of state.]