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20110216_HA_bob_dutton_4640.JPGWith the target for a budget deal next Thursday, Republican Senate leader Bob Dutton said today that the 15 members of his caucus should still be considered "no" votes on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to put tax hike extensions on the ballot.

Dutton confirmed Capitol chatter that some Republicans have been meeting privately with Brown in recent days. But the Rancho Cucamonga Republican, who had previously told The Bee he asks members of his caucus to inform him when they have budget-related meetings with Brown, maintained that the discussions were "not about tax extensions."

"They aren't cutting any side deals," Dutton said in an interview with The Bee on his way into a meeting in a building near the Capitol. "There's members looking at options, but they really have nothing to do with tax increases. It has to do with things necessary to make (government) more efficient, more effective and to promote economic growth in the private sector."

Though Democratic leaders in both houses have publicly said they will deliver votes on steep cuts, the Rancho Cucamonga Republican said there is "nothing to talk about" on the tax front because Democrats in private talks have yet to commit to putting up the votes to approve the proposed spending reductions.

Brown wants a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to put his tax-extension proposal on the ballot. For that to succeed, two Republicans in each house would have to vote "yes" along with all Democrats.

"We aren't even talking taxes, we're talking spending cuts right now," Dutton said. "We can't even get the Dems to do that and until they do that, we can't address our agenda."

Dutton at first deferred on whether legislators will meet Brown's March 10 deadline for approving the plan, saying "it's not up to me" due to the majority Democrats' control of the process and committee schedules. But he then said from his vantage point, a March 10 resolution is unlikely at best.

"I know everybody would like to see that happen, but I don't see it happening," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate Republican leader Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga, in a meeting with the Bee Capitol Bureau ton Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee



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