Consider today's State of the State address the campaign kickoff for a June special election.
Gov. Jerry Brown made a hard sell to lawmakers and voters, calling it "unconscionable" to block an election that would ask voters to extend higher taxes on vehicles, sales and income for the next five years. Republican lawmakers have said they will not support his call for more taxes.
In his 14-minute, 23-second speech, Brown said, "In the ordinary course of things, matters of state concern are properly handled in Sacramento. But when the elected representatives find themselves bogged down by deep differences which divide them, the only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance. It's time for a legislative check-in with the people of California."
After Democrats applauded, Brown chimed in, "And I want to see a few Republicans clapping on that, if you could. We'll build up ... or if you want to block the people's right to vote, stand up and say, 'Block that punt.'"
Brown is counting on voter approval for $11 billion in taxes through June 2012 to help balance the state's $25.4 billion deficit. Absent those tax dollars, Brown said the state would have to focus cuts on areas that lack federal protection. He ticked off his most specific list yet of programs facing the ax should lawmakers and voters reject additional taxes.
"Unfortunately, these will probably include elementary, middle and high schools," he said. "The University of California. The California State University system. Prisons and local public safety funding. And vital health programs."