Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he would consider signing a budget in which the Legislature extends temporary tax increases - subject to a later vote.
"That's a possibility," Brown said after meeting with local officials in Riverside. "They can do all cuts, they can have no budget, or they can... extend the taxes subject to their expiring if the people vote 'No."
Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said such a plan would still require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature. Brown has been unable to find the Republican votes necessary in either house to move forward his proposal to extend higher taxes on vehicles, income and sales.
Brown said he may propose a budget that would assume tax extensions before voters approve them, triggering an all-cuts budget if taxes fail at the ballot. The Democratic governor promised in his campaign not to raise taxes without voter approval. Brown said he is not breaking his promise.
"(The Legislature) may do the extension subject to a vote as soon as possible," Brown said. "I'd like to have a vote before, but the Republicans made that impossible."
Brown said, "I want to see what can be done. ... The Republicans have made impossible an election in June, so I say get an election as quickly as you can."
Ashford said the scenario is only one of many possibilities and would not break Brown's campaign promise because "it would be a temporary extension until we could get a vote as soon as possible."
Brown was in Riverside for the first of a series of statewide forums on the budget. He largely refrained from attacking Republican lawmakers, as he did all week in Sacramento, instead painting their differences as so deep only voters in a tax election could resolve them.
"There's no absolute right answer here," Brown told about 60 education and other officials in a forum at Arlanza Elementary School.
Still, Brown warned of deep service cuts if tax increases on sales, vehicles and income are not extended, as he is proposing to close California's yawning budget deficit.
"We either cut, slash and burn or we find the money," he said.
With protesters across the street including a caricature of Brown, a pony and a dog, Brown told his audience he was not in Riverside to mount a campaign.
"I'm here as not part of some campaign. I'm really here to get some information, and to give voice to you here in Riverside County," he said. "I'm not here to blame anybody. I'm not here to point fingers."
Before the forum began, Brown visited a fourth grade class of 35 students, 13 more than last year, teacher Susan Cummins said. Cummins said the change was because funding was decreased. Brown said 35 students is "too many."
The school where Brown spoke is near an automobile transmission factory, a glass and mirror business and several markets and tire shops. In the neighborhood and across the city are buildings with banners marked: "Another project brought to you by redevelopment."
Brown has proposed eliminating redevelopment agencies, and many local officials sympathetic to his tax plan oppose that part of his budget proposal.
Around the corner from the school, at Mars Barber Shop, barber Mark Roelle said spending cuts have already hurt local schools. He advocated a mix of spending reductions and tax extensions, and he thought Brown's appearances statewide might help.
"He's got to tell somebody," he said. "If he gets the people behind him, they'll get the message. If they don't, they have no reason to complain."
In his chair was David Pereyra, a water department employee in Pomona. He said the city has reduced his hours and that his wife, though qualified, has been unable to find a teaching job. He isn't sure how state lawmakers should close its budget deficit, but he is optimistic about Brown.
"I think he can," Pereyra said. "I hope he can. I want it to get better."
Further away, at Goody's restaurant, two carpenters, Lynn Schoonover and Lee Thomas, said Brown and other Democrats should focus less on taxes and more on controlling spending.
"He's trying to swindle us out of more money, is what it is," Schoonover said.