Capitol and California – State Budget
By Kevin Yamamura
Published: Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 – 12:24 am

The Legislature’s lawyers have told Republicans that Democrats could put taxes on the ballot with a majority vote under narrow circumstances.

The opinion, sought by Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, does not specifically address Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend higher income, sales and vehicle taxes for five years at a June election to help solve a $26.6 billion deficit.

The Democratic governor and majority Democratic lawmakers say the only sound way to place the taxes on the ballot is through a two-thirds supermajority, which requires at least two GOP votes in each house.

Republicans saw the legislative counsel’s opinion as proof that Democrats can solve the budget situation on their own if they wish, taxes and all.

“If it stands up legally, it shows Democrats could put tax hikes on the ballot without Republican votes,” said Dutton spokeswoman Jann Taber. “If they’re courting us for votes, they’re looking for political cover.”

Legislative counsel said lawmakers can place tax proposals on the ballot with a majority vote so long as the measures change statutory tax initiatives already passed by voters. Any change would have to be consistent, the opinion said, with the “scope or effect” of the initiative.

But the Legislature could not, by majority vote, place a tax on the ballot that is not tied to a pre-existing initiative. The opinion said a court likely would see that as “an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.”

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