By David Siders
Published: Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Gov. Jerry Brown, traveling to Los Angeles to meet with business leaders Friday, sat with The Bee to talk about his prospects for a budget deal, his place in politics and life back at the Capitol. The Democratic governor is still jogging, working long hours and keeping his negotiating options open.

You’ve said the partisan divide at the Capitol was maybe more than you’d expected. Do you think you underestimated Republican resistance?

No. It’s not more than I estimated. It’s just different, and more than what it was 30 years ago. And that’s true of the whole country.

Are you still working (on the budget) one-on-one with the legislators?

Yeah, I talk to people, sure. I talk to them. I have a lot of things to do. You’ve got the budget, you’ve got corrections, you’ve got negotiations. I’ve got appointments, you know, there are a lot of things going on. … I’ve got to go to funerals. You know, it’s a lot of stuff. The day’s pretty full.

Is (trading a tax extension vote for pension and regulatory reform) a deal you would be amenable to?

>Well, I’m willing to do a lot of things. I’m not going to particularize and specify it in minute detail. But I’m looking for consensus.

Why not specify those things?

Why limit people? We know we want pension reforms, I want further cuts. … The devil’s in the details.

Do you think you’ve made any strategic missteps since taking office?

None that anyone has identified.

You said you’d only sign an all-cuts budget if tax extensions fail. … Do you think Democrats would deliver that?

Might not.

So, what would happen then?

We wouldn’t have a budget. … Things would break down over time, and then they would do something eventually. It would be very difficult.

Do you think there’s a reasonable chance of that happening?

There’s a possibility. I can’t tell you. It depends upon whether the Republicans vote for the tax measure and whether the people vote for it. If they don’t, I mean, what’s the alternative?

There is no alternative except more gimmicks, and I think those gimmicks have been pretty well used up. So this is just the reality. You don’t have any gas in the car, the car’s going to stop.

So, we don’t have enough revenue, we’ve got to cut. If people don’t want to cut, then we don’t get a budget. So I’d say it’s going to be, it’s going to be very serious … if we can’t get it all done.

Why in the campaign didn’t you tell the public that you were considering tax extensions?

I said exactly what I would do: no taxes without a vote of the people.

Do you think it would have been harder to win if you’d said you were considering tax extensions?

I have no idea. But politics and the way the game is played, statements are very easily manipulated and become more than they are in the form of commercials, and so very small, slim statements can be repackaged and become something very different.

So one has to be careful what one says. And that’s why most candidates are under strict discipline and are not allowed to speak. I’m one of the few candidates that can speak my mind, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to be careful.

Are Republicans right that regulations in California are too burdensome on business?

They’re right and wrong. In some respects, they may be right. The regulations on the banking and mortgage industry were obviously inadequate, to the extent that billions of dollars, trillions of dollars, have been lost and destroyed because of the lack of regulation. And people lost their lives in San Bruno because somebody wasn’t watching the pipes. So it all depends which particular problem, which particular regulation.

It’s a rhetorical call, and it’s one that I think always needs attending to. But just as a generality, it’s not very helpful.

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