California state Sen. Robert Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) holds his head in his hands during a budget negotiating session of the state Senate on Feb. 17, 2009 in Sacramento.
The big budget forum is under way in Sacramento. Grim stuff, with Gov.-elect Ebenezer... er Jerry Brown reminding us how there's no money for anything. "Unprecedented," he says in describing the depths of the state's fiscal problems.
To the good, Brown is leading an adult conversation and has sought to include a variety of perspectives. To the bad, a key player is missing among the legislative leaders. Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton is in the audience, but not on stage. Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway is on stage. Dutton has refused to explain to reporters why he's not on the stage.
Here's my guess: Dutton doesn't want to participate in a process that he and other Republicans may see as a way to prepare the public for tax increases. Fair enough, but it's better to talk than not.