Democratic leaders in the state Legislature said Friday they were growing frustrated after weeks of
negotiations with Republican lawmakers failed to yield a deal on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg, D-Sacramento, warned that he could schedule a vote soon to force GOP lawmakers to make a decision but would not give up on a deal as long as the Democratic
governor wants to keep negotiating with GOP lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker John Perez dismissed a list of Republican demands as moving further away from what Democrats can accept, but GOP lawmakers emerged from the governor's office saying
they were still talking.
The main point of contention is Brown's proposal for a special election to give voters a chance to extend temporary tax increases enacted two years ago.
If talks reach impasse, Democrats could try to approve the special election on a simple majority vote, a move that would almost certainly be challenged in court because legislative ballot measures require a two-thirds vote.
Democrats, who have a majority in both houses, also could introduce an all-cuts budget that would cut billions of dollars more from schools or try to qualify an independent initiative on the tax extensions for a special election this November.
"We will quickly have to decide whether or not to pursue solutions that do not require Republican votes,'' Perez, D-Los Angeles, said after leaving Brown's office.
This week, Brown signed bills that reduced California's deficit from $26.6 billion to about $12.6 billion through a mix of spending cuts and fund shifts. Republicans and Democrats disagree over how to close the remaining shortfall. Republicans have not presented an alternate plan.
Republicans are seeking rollbacks of public employee pensions, a cap on state spending in future budgets and business-friendly regulatory changes in exchange for supporting Brown's plan for a special election on a five-year extension of hikes in the personal income, sales and vehicle taxes that are scheduled to expire this
Steinberg and Brown have complained that Republican lawmakers have not been specific about what they are willing to trade for their votes on a special election.
"You need to say, 'This is what we need in order to put up the following votes.''' Steinberg said Friday. "We've been waiting for months.''
Hours later, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, and Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, emerged from a meeting with Brown in which Dutton said they presented a wish list that GOP
Senators had been working on for several months.
"The governor is mulling that over; we're going to be hanging around for a little while,'' Dutton told reporters.
He declined to specify what was on the list, saying, ``It's all major issues, a lot of them that you've already reported on.''
Democrats need two GOP votes in each house of the state Legislature to approve a special election.
On Thursday, Brown acknowledged that time was running short but said he wasn't ready to give up.