Calif. Lawmakers Convene Over Budget, Recess

Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011  |  Updated 5:09 PM PDT
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Calif. Lawmakers Convene Over Budget, Recess

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

A view of the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

California lawmakers convened Wednesday to take up a budget package aimed at closing the state's $26.6 billion deficit -- a plan that has sharply divided Democrats and Republicans.

The state Assembly and Senate gathered on the floor Wednesday afternoon before immediately recessing for caucus and committee meetings.

Both houses were scheduled to vote on Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to cut $12.5 billion in spending and ask voters to approve a five-year extension of sales, income and vehicle taxes set to expire this year. However, the Democratic governor has given no indication he has the necessary support from Republicans to reach the two-thirds vote threshold necessary to place the tax question before voters.

Two Republicans in each house would have to approve the plan, even if every Democrat votes yes. Brown has acknowledged that some Democrats may oppose the package because of the deep spending cuts.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg predicted the work to reach consensus would continue this week and maybe even into the weekend.

"I think it's pretty clear it's going to be more than just today," Steinberg, D-Sacramento, told reporters after the Senate went into recess.

Republican leaders so far have refused to back the tax extension, jeopardizing Brown's proposal for a June special election.

The state GOP is scheduled to meet this weekend in Sacramento for its spring convention, putting pressure on Republican lawmakers to stand firm on the budget or risk being ostracized by party leaders and staunch conservatives.

A Field Poll released Wednesday found that a majority of Californians support the governor's approach of a ballot measure to decide the tax question. The poll also found that 58 percent of registered voters said they would vote to extend the tax increases, while 39 percent said they would vote to return them to previous levels.

The poll found overall support among voters for spending cuts, but a reluctance to specify which state programs should be targeted. Voters opposed cutting all but two out of 14 areas of state government spending: courts and prisons.

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