GOP’s Huff: There’s caucus support for temporary tax extensions

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A key Republican lawmaker said Monday there is support in his caucus for extending current tax rates through legislation for several months until a ballot measure can be put before voters for continuing the taxes until 2011-12.

The plan would be to pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget proposal before July and allow voters to subsequently ratify the package in a September or November election, said state Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar.

The Legislature would directly extend the taxes themselves to a time-certain date, he explained, “where the voters can weigh in on a special election, that’s how it would lay out,” Huff explained in an interview.

“At that point, they (voters) would be asking to extend the taxes themselves. If they say no, then those temporary taxes – the two, three, five, six, whatever months (the Legislature approved them for), then they would fall off. That’s how I understand it’s being framed.”

Disclosure of Republican support for extending the governor’s tax package – even short-term – would suggest a far more palatable option to any others being discussed in Sacramento, which includes passing an all-cuts budget. It comes as the state’s teachers union called publicly Tuesday on the governor to move ahead with extending the taxes without an election – something Brown has said he cannot do.

But as described, the deal would appease both the Republican’s pledge to not support any new taxes, and the governor’s campaign promise that he wouldn’t sign off on any taxes without voter approval.

Current tax rates on sales, income, and vehicles expire in June. If the public were allowed to vote on the measures in September without a budget in place, they would technically be voting on new taxes. There’s also a question how the state could manage keeping solvent until then without a budget in place.

However, the scenario Huff described would give Republicans political cover by maintaining the ‘tax extension’ title.  

“While a nuance, it’s a big deal in conservative districts,” Huff explained.

According to the Senator, the budget deal still hinges on a wish list of Republican demands. The last Republican list presented to Gov. Jerry Brown in March included a host of issues that extended beyond prior GOP requests for pension reform, a cap on state spending, and regulatory changes.

At the time, the governor balked, and talks reportedly broke down and have not progressed since then. But if the governor reconsiders those demands, said Huff, he would get his budget. 

“I believe that if the governor met the criteria of what the so-called GOP five were at – that (Senate minority leader) Bob Dutton and I presented – that there would be votes to do that,” said Huff.

Despite sure signs that budget talks continue in lieu of a reported standstill, Huff said he didn’t believe a deal was imminent.

“I’ve seen no willingness on the Democrat leadership side to take Republicans up on their offer,” he said. 

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