Two days after Gov. Jerry Brown called off talks and suggested Republicans were obstructionist, Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton and his budget point man, Sen. Bob Huff, held a news conference today to explain their moves over the last week.
Dutton said first lady Anne Gust Brown "yelled" at him in one meeting with the governor last Wednesday over a lack of cooperation.
"Frankly, I was yelled at more than I was talked to," Dutton said, "and mostly by Mrs. Brown, not even Gov. Brown."
Brown press secretary Gil Duran blasted Dutton later.
"And the dog barked at him, too," Duran said. "Big girls don't cry. The real issue here is the fact that schoolchildren, the elderly and the poor are going to be crushed if these reckless Republicans don't get their act together and make a reasonable deal for the good of the people. Given the magnitude of the situation, we really don't have time for Bob Dutton's feelings."
Rather than demands, Dutton said he saw their now famous budget list as a starting point to gain clarity over where the governor and Republicans could agree. He said such lists were typical of past "Big Five" budget negotiations that involved the four legislative leaders and the governor.
Asked why he waited until the end to show Brown that list, Dutton blamed Brown for not asking him to join talks earlier. In prior weeks, Brown had negotiated with a group of five Republican senators seen as more amenable than their colleagues to striking a compromise.
"The governor never asked for my help," Dutton said.
Duran said Dutton "put himself on the sidelines" and that the problem was the "erratic nature of their communication."
The Republican leader said he believes a spending cap and pension changes need to go on the ballot to satisfy GOP concerns. He was vague about how much Republicans are willing to negotiate in the coming months, though he said he didn't believe there would be any Senate GOP votes for tax extensions that didn't go on the ballot.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, speaking separately to reporters after a morning floor session, also predicted that a ballot measure to restrict state spending would be part of a final deal, though he said it is unclear "how that will be tied to the tax extensions."
"We're dealing with a similar framework to what the governor and the set of Republicans had progressed to," Steinberg said of ongoing efforts to close the deficit. "I think it's worth an effort to see whether or not we can finish it."
Steinberg said while he personally would prefer to pursue extending the taxes without going to the ballot, leaders are filling their "obligation to pursue multiple pathways," including a later election date.
"June is not the only month," he said. "There are 11 other months in the year, and certainly we are not giving up."
Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.
PHOTO CREDIT: Republican Senate leader Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga talks to the Bee's Capitol Bureau to discuss the minority's party's role in solving the state budget deficit on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee