Gov. Brown checks in on Calif. budget over YouTube

In this Feb. 24, 2011file photo, Gov. Jerry Brown talks with reporters following his appearance before a hearing of joint legislative conference committee at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Both houses of the legislature have scheduled sessions this week to vote on Brown's budget plan that includes calling a for a special election in June so voters can decide whether to extend tax increases.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File)

March 22, 2011 1:56:31 AM PDT
Gov. Jerry Brown is turning to social media to turn up the heat on lawmakers in Sacramento. He wants voters to decide on his plan to extend taxes and he's using YouTube to get the message out.

"I thought it was time to check in and give you a report," said Brown.

In his three-minute YouTube address, Brown appealed directly to California voters, asking them to support a special election that would extend expiring taxes. Brown announced his candidacy for governor also in a video online, but this was his first such address since taking office in January.

"What I'm asking the Legislature, and both parties, is to give we the people, all of us in California as voters, the opportunity to vote," said Brown.

A recent Field Poll shows 61 percent of California voters would vote for the tax extensions, but Brown needs support from at least some Republicans to put such a measure on the ballot.

"Negotiations, I'm told, are continuing. This is between a small handful of Republicans and the governor," said State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

But Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, sees little reason for optimism.

When asked if there was a scenario where at least a couple Republicans could go forward with a special election, Dutton replied, "I don't know why because unless you're serious about actually fixing the problems and getting the economy moving forward, you're just further delaying the inevitable."

Republicans want a relaxation of regulations on California businesses, pension reform and a cap on state spending. Last week, Democrats passed $14 billion in spending cuts, but that's still $12.5 billion short of what's needed to eliminate a deficit approaching $27 billion. Late Monday, Democratic leaders emerged from a closed door meeting with the governor.

"We're going to work really, really hard over the next number of hours and short number of days and we're going to try to bring this together," said State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Monday night, Brown spoke before labor unions to drum up support for his budget plan. "We the people are taking California back. Let tonight be the beginning," said Brown.

California Republican Party chairman Tom Del Beccaro says a YouTube video won't change anything.

"It's a smart move for Jerry Brown to appeal directly to people. Frankly the Republicans need to do a better job at that as well, but the fact of the matter is Californians, having lost $1.7 trillion in homeowner equity in the last four years, they don't have the money to bail out Sacramento," said Tom Del Becarro.

The tax extensions would raise an estimated $9.2 billion a year from personal income, sales and vehicles taxes enacted two years ago. At a community gathering in Walnut Creek Monday night, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer warned what would happen if those extensions are voted down.

"You start cutting more healthcare for kids, you cut the school year for schools and class sizes and universities and so on," said Lockyer.

As it is, time is running out. Unless the governor and Republicans would need to reach a deal very soon, it's highly unlikely local registrars will be ready to host a special election in early June.

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