Is Brown Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth?

Gov. Jerry Brown, seems likely to have pay a very high price for the four Republican votes (two in each house of the legislature) he needs to put his temporary tax package on a June special election ballot.

Republican state senators are demanding reforms to and changes in Brown's budget proposal that could add to the budget's costs (particularly if redevelopment is preserved, as the GOP wants) or create political problems with Brown's labor base (pension givebacks). The GOP also will likely push for a shorter time period for the tax extensions -- two or three years, as opposed to the five years Brown wants.

But there appears to be a cheaper way to get Brown's whole package on the ballot. Republicans have offered to put Brown's full package on the ballot, without attached reforms, as long as there's an additional measure: a tax cut equal to the amount that Brown would raise taxes with his temporary extensions.

It's easy to see why Brown hasn't grabbed at the offer. If the tax cuts were to pass, they could make a big budget problem even worse. But would they pass? Joel Fox, the former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., and no fan of taxes, argues that a tax cut measure has little chance of passage and that Republicans were unwise to make the offer. By that logic, Brown should seize the offer as an opportunity -- to get his program on the ballot in the form he prefers.

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