By Jim Sanders
jsanders@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

What little muscle they had, California Republican lawmakers used, blocking cigarette, liquor, oil production and other proposed tax hikes the past few years.

One GOP senator’s demand as part of a budget deal sparked creation of California’s new top-two primary election system, which allows candidates of the same party to butt heads in November runoffs.

Republicans kept a $6 billion extension of temporary taxes off the ballot last year and nixed plans to award middle-class college scholarships. Their resistance to raising revenue resulted in large cuts to schools, counties and social services in recent years.

Kiss those days goodbye now, unless vote-counting trends reverse in two tight Assembly races that provide the GOP with its only hope of stopping a Democratic supermajority in both legislative houses.

Assuming Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is correct in declaring victory, Republicans no longer can press demands, extract concessions or block whatever Democrats want to do if confronted with a massive budget hole amid a rocky economy.

The GOP won’t be getting offers like that accepted more than a decade ago by then-Assemblyman Anthony Pescetti, R-Rancho Cordova, who helped pass a Democratic-crafted budget after securing nearly $7.5 million for projects in his district.

“If Republicans want any influence now with Democrats, they ought to apply for internships,” quipped Jack Pitney, political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

Republicans in recent years have held just enough seats to get courted on budget, tax or other key bills requiring approval by a two-thirds margin.

Voters began pulling the rug out from under the GOP in 2010, passing an initiative permitting state budgets to be passed by majority vote. They followed that up Tuesday by awarding Democrats an apparent supermajority in both the Assembly and Senate.

The blows slap a sagging state GOP that already was low in cash, influence and structure. Only 30 percent of voters are Republicans.

A Democratic supermajority means that no GOP votes would be needed to raise taxes, override a governor’s veto, or place constitutional amendments on the ballot. Democrats last wielded such power in 1883.

Gov. Jerry Brown, Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg say they won’t rush to raise taxes, especially given that voters on Tuesday passed two new tax measures raising about $7 billion annually.

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