Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, May. 23, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

As the state budget’s deficit widens, Gov. Jerry Brown is being thrust into a three-front political battle.

He must not only persuade voters to pass his sales and income tax package, but, implicitly, persuade them to reject a rival tax measure just for schools.

Meanwhile, Brown is pressing liberal Democratic legislators to ignore their political DNA by making deeper cuts in health and welfare programs, not only to close the deficit but to bolster appeals to voters for new taxes.

“It’s not easy,” Brown told hundreds of business and civic figures gathered Tuesday in Sacramento for the annual Host Breakfast.

“We’re getting there,” Brown continued. “We’re making the cuts. But we also need the revenues.”

Brown had been cultivating business groups to support his original tax plan, but they cooled when he shifted gears to satisfy rivals on the left, reducing the sales tax element and sharply boosting income taxes on high-income taxpayers, including many attendees at Tuesday’s event.

Despite Brown’s assertion, cuts in welfare benefits, medical care for the poor, child care, developmental disability services, and in-home care for the aged and disabled are a tough sell among liberal legislators who support those services.

Brown’s new budget counts on those reductions to narrow the deficit by more than $1.5 billion but legislative leaders have said that softening their impact is their highest priority, characterizing them as “life-and-death” issues.

Past efforts to make cuts in those areas have been difficult. Most involve federal funds as well as the state’s money, and some have run afoul of Washington’s unwillingness to grant waivers, while others have been blocked in court.

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