By Dan Walters The Sacramento Bee
Published: Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

That explosion you heard in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday was the big blowup of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans to ask voters in June to extend billions of dollars in taxes to balance the deficit-riddled state budget.

Brown terminated negotiations with Republican legislators, citing a lengthy list of GOP demands last week.

The governor said he was willing to consider pension and regulatory reform and a spending cap as part of a deal but “while we made significant progress on these reform issues, the Republicans continued to insist on including demands that would materially undermine any semblance of a balanced budget. In fact, they sought to worsen the state’s problem by creating a $4 billion hole in the budget.”

The blowup, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said, means there won’t be a June election on more than $11 billion a year in extensions of temporary taxes, thus leaving the estimated $15.4 billion deficit still unclosed.

So what’s Plan B?

Brown has not been specific about an alternative, either because he assumed he would succeed and didn’t need one, or because he didn’t want to cloud negotiations.

Steinberg said “we will use the power of our majority” and, when asked about specifics, mentioned an initiative petition campaign to place taxes before voters next fall as one option.

Brown had earlier hinted at an initiative, but delaying tax extensions would severely reduce their revenue impact – even if voters agreed. Recent polls have indicated that most voters are leery of new taxes and in a fall election, they would be labeled tax increases rather than tax extensions.

Pressed further, Steinberg said, “we’re going to consider every option.” Legal authorities differ on whether Democrats could place taxes on the ballot without Republican votes, and an attempt would spark a court battle.

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