State tax fight hangs on one condition

February 23, 2011 7:05:40 PM PST
The tax fight in Sacramento is taking a new turn. There may be a new administration, but they have the same old budget battles. At stake is whether Californians and their wallets will bailout California's budget mess. However, two-thirds of California Republican lawmakers just made that harder. Republicans are willing to go along with Gov. Jerry Brown on a ballot measure to keep existing taxes in place, but on one condition.

"We could raise $7, almost $8 billion dollars in tax revenue for California," said Assm. Warren Furutani, D-South Los Angeles County.

And so the budget fight that normally intensifies in June is getting an early start. To no one's surprise, the bickering centers on taxes. Furutani just introduced a bill that would tax California's high income earners an additional 1 percent to save social programs the poor rely on.

"All of these folks are a part of our family. We have to be able to take care of them," said Furutani.

Around the corner from that unveiling, Republicans announced the formation of a new taxpayers caucus, aimed at warding off any more tax increases, including Brown's proposal to ask voters to extend some temporary taxes for five more years.

"I'm not seeing the changes that need to occur to make that the state is lean and mean," said Assm. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville.

The Taxpayers Caucus says it may be willing to put Brown's tax extension on the ballot if another measure also gives voters the choice to cut taxes by the same amount.

"The message is that tax increases are counter-productive. Tax increases take us in the wrong direction," said Assm. Don Wagner R-Irvine.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst put together a doomsday scenario if more taxes aren't approved. They say public education from kindergarten to college would take a $6 billion hit, public safety -- including prisons -- would be cut by more than $2.5 billion, and health and social programs would have another $1 billion cut.

"As a Republican, I am very disappointed over that's the line they have drawn," said fifth grade teacher Dana Dillion. She just wants to give voters a chance to save schools and stop the budget cuts. "We don't have art. We don't have music. We don't have technical education. We can't go any further."

A budget vote is likely very soon. The deadline to put the tax extensions on a June ballot is March 10. Brown needs four Republicans, two in each house, to help him make it happen.