By David Siders
dsiders@sacbee.com
Published: Thursday, Mar. 10, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Gov. Jerry Brown, citing progress in budget talks with Republicans, asked Senate and Assembly Democrats on Wednesday to delay budget votes that were planned for today, missing his self-imposed deadline but giving him more time to negotiate.

Brown, who resumed meetings with a splinter group of Republican senators Tuesday, said Wednesday he is “on track” for a deal.

“I’m getting some optimistic comments from some of the Republicans,” he said, “but we haven’t nailed down what it takes to close the budget.”

The Democratic governor, proposing a mix of cuts and taxes to close an estimated $26.6 billion budget deficit, needs at least two Republican votes in each house to ask voters to extend tax increases on vehicles, income and sales. Five Republican senators calling themselves the “GOP 5” released demands this week for pension, regulatory and other government changes.

One of those Republicans, Sen. Sam Blakeslee, suggested as he left the governor’s office Wednesday that the five might be considering Brown’s tax extension proposal.

“Hard decisions are called for, and we’re going to try to make those decisions as responsibly as we can,” said Blakeslee, of San Luis Obispo. “But we want to make sure that voters have all the right choices before them on the ballot if that … if we get to that point. But it’s not clear we’re at that point.”

He said he could not say whether a deal is imminent, calling it “premature to make any particular predictions.”

In response to Brown’s request for a delay, neither house is expected to vote on his budget plan today. Barring a highly unlikely development, he will miss his self-imposed deadline, which could push further into June any special election on a tax measure.

It was unclear how long the houses might wait to vote on the budget.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had planned to put Brown’s budget to a vote today on $12.5 billion in cuts despite Republican resistance to tax extensions.

The mood around negotiations improved, however, and Steinberg said Wednesday he was watching to “see where (Brown’s) conversations with those folks go.”

Steinberg said Brown was not pressuring Democrats to agree to Republican demands, though Brown himself suggested some movement may be required.

“Not clear,” the governor said. “Depends upon what the Republicans want. We may have to move. … I don’t want to say what we have to do nor not have to do, but more work needs to be done.”

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