By Kevin Yamamura
Published: Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Ten more days.

That’s how much more time Gov. Jerry Brown is giving lawmakers to reach a deal on the budget.

Democrats are finalizing their version of the plan, but the biggest hurdle – getting enough Republican votes – remains a significant challenge.

Brown is pursuing a different strategy from his predecessors by wooing Republican lawmakers outside the “Big Five” process of private meetings, in part because GOP leaders haven’t exactly rushed to the bargaining table.

As the deadline draws near, we answer some questions.

>Why March 10?

History suggests the governor needs to call a special election around that date to give election officials enough time to prepare for a June 7 ballot. It’s also two months after Brown proposed his budget in January, and he said he wanted to solve the deficit within 60 days.

Wait much later than March 10, and election officials may lack sufficient time to draft and review election materials before they are required to send ballots to overseas voters.

>How much progress has been made?

Democrats insist that more than 95 percent of the budget is done. Technically speaking, it is true that majority Democrats and Brown agree on most of the state budget, even though lawmakers scaled back some of his most controversial cuts to welfare-to-work and Medi-Cal.

But Democrats need Republican votes under Brown’s approach, and no GOP legislator has yet agreed to place his tax hike extensions on the ballot.

>Are taxes the only hangup?

Not the only hangup, but the central one.

Other than taxes, redevelopment agencies loom as a thorny issue. Brown proposed eliminating redevelopment agencies, and plenty of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle question that approach.

Also, lawmakers see Brown’s proposal to shift $6 billion in services to local governments as particularly daunting. Some are uncomfortable with shifting a substantial number of services so quickly.

>What happens if lawmakers don’t pass a budget by March 10?

Brown could continue seeking a deal with lawmakers to put taxes on the ballot. That would mean reducing preparation time for election officials or delaying the election beyond June 7.

Alternatively, Brown could forgo the election. The governor said last week that absent additional taxes, he would replace the tax proposals with additional cuts rather than gimmicks. It remains to be seen whether the Legislature would approve a cuts-only budget, but Brown could veto any plan he felt contained too many gimmicks.

In theory, Democrats could try to place the taxes on the ballot on a majority vote. But such an attempt would require legal gymnastics. Democrats insist they will not do so because they envision legal challenges and prefer a bipartisan agreement.

>Why not hold the election in July or August?

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