In an effort to ramp up pressure on Republican lawmakers who might agree to a compromise budget deal, a top GOP official has submitted a resolution for the party's convention later this month to formally censure any Republican who votes for new or higher taxes.
"If the Republican party loses the ability to say that we're the party against higher taxes than we've been dealt a grievous blow," said Jon Fleischman, the author of the resolution and a Southern California vice chairman in the California Republican Party.
Fleischman, who publishes the conservative FlashReport Web site, said the resolution is meant as a "stick" to dissuade GOP legislators from agreeing to any budget plan with higher taxes crafted with majority Democrats and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I think it is fair to say that if you are a Republican and, between now and the February convention, you vote for tax increases, you are likely to be censured by your party and cast out among the unwanted," he said.
The resolution goes one step further than a censure. It calls for changes in party bylaws to allow the Republican Party "to campaign and contribute funds against these pro-tax Republican legislators in primaries, and in general elections."
The state GOP faithful are set to gather for their semi-annual convention in Sacramento on Feb. 20.
"I think there's enough anger out there that something like this could pass," said Patrick Dorinson, former communications director for California Republican Party.
Legislative leaders and Schwarzenegger have been negotiating behind closed doors -- in what's termed Big Five meetings -- to address the state's roughly $40 billion budget hole through July 2010.
Neither Assembly GOP leader Mike Villines, Senate GOP leader Dave Cogdill nor Senate leader Darrell Steinberg returned a call for comment Monday.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, called the censure maneuver "blackmail.
"it would seem to be fundamentally out of touch and greatly at odds with how the people of this state want us to be governing," she said in a statement.
As of this weekend, the state no longer has enough cash to pay its ongoing bills and has begun withholding tax refund payments to state residents. Other payments are also being withheld.
For months, Democrats and Schwarzenegger have proposed a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts to close the budget deficit, but, thus far, Republicans, many of whom signed pledges to never raise taxes, have refused to go along.
But that opposition has appeared to soften in recent weeks, with business groups advocating for new broad-based taxes, instead of none at all, and GOP lawmakers signaling a willingness to talk.
Assemblyman Roger Niello, the Republican vice chair of the budget committee, told The Bee on Jan. 22, "I'm going to express enough flexibility so that the other side will know that, as for me, if they express flexibility on those things that I think are important, I'm going to express flexibility on those things that they think are important."
Fleischman said he had yet to personally speak to any GOP lawmaker openly supporting new taxes, but said, "You kind of need to be prepared."
Fleischman is a unabashed limited government advocate, who said he would solve the budget hole by undoing labor contracts, firing state workers and shrinking government to the size it was several years ago.
"It makes no sense that in the private sector there is massive downsizing of companies and there is no right-sizing taking place in government," he said.
Or, as he wrote on his Web site on Monday, "State government needs to do less, with less,"
But Dorinson did not like the censure tactic, saying it was self-defeating for Republicans.
"This kind of stuff reminds me of the fellow, who is not too bright, who walks into his bedroom and sees his wife with another man," Dorinson said. "Then he points the gun at his own head. His wife and the guy start laughing. And the guy says, 'What are you laughing at, you're next.'"
"It seems like we're attacking ourselves," he added.
Photo: Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Assembly GOP leader Mike Villines negotiating in the speaker's office in August 2008. Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press