SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday vetoed a Democratic budget plan approved by the Legislature, warning that if he fails to get the tax extensions he's seeking it will mean deeper cuts to vital public services.
The Democratic governor said he had a number of concerns about the budget package passed Wednesday by majority Democrats to close California's remaining $9.6 billion deficit.
The plan was widely seen as a placeholder until Brown could compromise with Republican lawmakers over whether to extend a series of tax increases set to expire June 30.
In his veto message, Brown warned of dire consequences if Republicans continue to stand in the way of a special election to approve the tax extensions.
"If they continue to obstruct a vote, we will be forced to pursue deeper and more destructive cuts to schools and public safety – a tragedy for which Republicans will bear full responsibility," the governor said.
Brown's swift rejection of the budget proposal and his ensuing finger-pointing ruffled feathers in both parties and raised serious questions about where things go from here.
GOP lawmakers challenged Brown's claim that they are to blame for the current impasse.
"In fact, it's the Democrats who are holding California hostage by refusing to allow the voters to weigh in on meaningful structural reforms – not just Gov. Brown's tax proposal," a group of four Republican senators who have been involved in budget talks with the governor said in a joint statement.
Republicans say they want reforms to public employee pensions, a spending cap and regulatory changes to help California businesses.
Democrats, meanwhile, expressed frustration over what one lawmaker described as a "very serious lack of communication" between the governor and members of his party.
"I think the whole state should be asking, `governor, you couldn't get Republican votes for your Plan A. The majority party in the Legislature did their work to come up with a Plan B. You've now rejected it. What is your proposal?'" said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Brown's decision appeared to be "part of some elaborate strategy to force a confrontation" with the GOP but did not offer a clear path toward any sort of resolution.
"Success depends on articulating your first choice and being prepared and articulating the next best alternative," the Sacramento Democrat told reporters.
Brown wants the Legislature to extend expiring sales and vehicle tax hikes for several months and authorize a special election this fall in which voters would be asked to extend those increases and an already expired increase in the personal income tax rate for up to five years.
The sales and vehicle tax hikes are set to expire June 30, a date that has become the new unofficial deadline for approving a budget plan.
The Democrats have majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate but need at least two GOP votes in each house to pass tax increases or place measures on a ballot.
The plan sent to Brown's desk Wednesday includes several provisions that would likely face a legal challenge, including imposing a $12 fee on vehicle registrations, a firefighting surcharge on rural residents, and an extension of a hike in the sales tax.
Under that plan, education would see $3 billion less in state funding than Brown called for when he released his revised budget proposal in May. In addition, more than $500 million would be cut from state programs.
Brown said the proposal reflected some positive work but did not go far enough.
"I am vetoing today because I don't want to see more billions in borrowing, legal maneuvers that are questionable and a budget that will not stand the test of time," Brown said in an online video message after announcing the veto on his Twitter account.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, expressed skepticism that members of his party would get on board behind a plan that includes deeper cuts than those already proposed.
"I don't see the votes for something that has more cuts than what we did yesterday," he said.
In approving the budget package Wednesday, Democrats exercised their newfound ability to pass a budget plan – but not tax increases – on a simple majority vote, a power granted by voters last year.
Had lawmakers missed a June 15 constitutional deadline to send a balanced budget to the governor, they would have forfeited $261 a day in salary and $142 in payments for daily expenses under a voter initiative passed last year.
Republican lawmakers derided the Democratic proposal as a sham that was thrown together and was not intended to stand.
Associated Press writers Don Thompson, Lien Hoang and Adam Weintraub contributed to this report.