State Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, announces Thursday that Republicans will support a public vote on extending taxes if a cap on spending and pension reform also go up for a vote. (Associated Press)

By Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino Staff Writer
Created: 06/23/2011 06:13:36 PM PDT

A week before vehicle and sales tax increases are set to expire, Senate Republicans said they will let people vote on the issue – as long as they also get to have a say on spending cap and pension cuts.

“Yes. A tax measure can be placed before the voters, but the voters must also be allowed to consider measures to reform our unsustainable public pension system and a spending cap to stop state government over-spending,” said State Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, a change from his firm stance against allowing for any possibility of tax increases.

While agreeing to a vote on taxes, the GOP on Thursday blocked Democrats’ push for $4 billion to $5 billion in tax extension until a fall election can be held – state’s unexpected growth in revenues make the temporary measure unnecessary, they said.

During press conference held outside Gov. Jerry Brown’s office, Dutton and his caucus also accused Democrats of using the temporary tax extension as an excuse to stall budget negotiations and pacify labor supporters.

“It’s the public unions and the Governor who have become the problem in this budget negotiation, not Republicans,” said State Sen, Bob Huff, R-Glendora.

State Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster said she agrees with her caucus.

“It is important for the financial health of our state to reform pensions and impose a real cap on government spending,” Runner said.

But not everyone is on board with the change.

“I don’t think it makes any sense to try to negotiate right now,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia. “At Assembly side we are not doing that. What reforms they’ll get no one knows. I have a feeling that it’s a lot easier to kill reforms than taxes.

“What we should be absolutely fighting to do is which regulation we can kill to create more jobs.”

Dismissing Republican accusations, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the temporary vehicle and sales tax extension is necessary to pay for schools and public safety until the voters can decide whether to extend taxes further.

He conceded that convincing voters to approve new taxes would be tougher than asking them to extend existing ones.

Dutton also said his caucus wants the pension measure separate from the tax proposal on the ballot, while Democrats want to have all three special election measures tied together so that all pass or all fail.

Gil Duran, Brown’s press secretary said the Republicans were “grandstanding without solving problems…We could have had regulatory reform, a spending cap and pension reform–without a bridge–in March.”

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