Politics & Government

California budget: taxes debated, Senate 'close' to deal

The state Senate today finally debated the single most controversial element of the package designed to close the state's $40 billion budget deficit -- a $14.4 billion melange of income, sales and gasoline taxes -- but retired to private meetings before calling for a vote.

After a week of backroom negotiations, the final Republican vote needed to enact the new taxes remains elusive. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has pledged to keep the Senate in session around the clock, if necessary, to get the job done.

It's generally assumed that Republican leader Dave Cogdill and Bakersfield GOP Sen. Roy Ashburn are committed to vote for the tax bill if a third GOP senator joins them. Most of the pressure has been directed at GOP Sens. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria and Dave Cox of Fair Oaks.

Speaking to reporters, Maldonado said negotiations for his vote and perhaps those of other Republicans were "close" to bearing fruit, but declined to offer specifics.

In today's debate, Democrats urged approval to keep the state solvent and Republicans argued that new taxes would be economic poison during a severe recession.

Cox described the new taxes as an economic "straw that broke the camel's back." He said lawmakers should focus on a short-term fix that does not involve tax increases but generates enough cash flow to keep the state paying its bills.

Kevin Bassett, Cox's chief of staff, said Cox wants the tax package reduced and Democrats to reconsider loosening workplace rules, a GOP demand that was rejected in negotiations with the governor and legislative leaders.

Read the complete story at sacbee.com