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A group of Republicans today pushed for a stricter cap on state spending, with sponsors pledging to go to the ballot if lawmakers don't enact the change themselves.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 10, authored by Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, would limit the rate of growth of state spending, allowing for annual increases to account for inflation and population growth. Supporters said excess revenues would be used to fill a reserve and school funds or be returned to taxpayers.

Strickland, who chairs the unofficial "Taxpayers Caucus" formed to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown's tax extension plan, said his proposal is the best fix for addressing a "spending problem of epic proportions" in California.

"We need to spend within our means just like every other California family,"he said at a morning press conference at the Capitol, adding: "The Legislature has an appetite for spending, and this measure will put them on a diet."

The office of Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, called the proposal a political calculation that would not curb spending in the areas where it has grown at the highest rate over the past decade.

"Our position is, as a practical matter and given the political history, this kind of spending cap is going to wind up taking money for schools and giving it to health care and prisons," spokesman Tom Dresslar said. "Lockyer finds it hard to believe that anybody thinks that's good policy."

A long-term spending cap, generally opposed by Democratic lawmakers, is among the proposals advanced by a group of Senate Republicans engaged in budget negotiations with Brown, who needs at least two Republican votes in each house to put taxes on the ballot. A deal has yet to emerge, with floor votes on the budget scheduled to take place this afternoon.

Strickland's measure would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and voter approval to take effect. Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal, said supporters are "under no delusions that this has got a tough road in the Legislature" and are looking at putting something similar on the 2012 ballot through the initiative process.

"That's where I think a lot of fireworks are going to happen with a number of proposals," said Coupal, whose organization is sponsoring the legislation. "If the governor really wants people to decide, I think the voters are going to have a lot of decisions in 2012."


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