SAN JOSE -- Gov. Jerry Brown, framing resistance to his tax plan as an expression of broad anti-government sentiment, said in a highly personal appeal Friday to Silicon Valley business leaders that public education is worth funding because it is central to democracy.
But the Democratic governor said a budget deal remains elusive and could take several more weeks to reach.
"We're not at the point of, 'OK, if you do this pension reform and A, B, C and D regulatory, you've got a deal,' " Brown told reporters after a panel discussion at an IBM research facility. "We're not at that level of specificity, and I think we have several weeks of conversations to get to a point where people feel, 'OK, that sounds like a good deal.' "
Brown proposes extending higher taxes on vehicles, income and sales to resolve the state's remaining $15.4 billion budget deficit, warning of deep cuts to education and public safety if taxes are not approved.
Republicans have said such a warning is disingenuous, as few lawmakers are likely to agree to such a plan. Republicans negotiating with Brown -- who needs two GOP votes in each house to put taxes on the ballot -- are demanding pension, regulatory and other government changes.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which endorsed Brown's budget plan, provided him a friendly forum. The group's CEO, Carl Guardino, said his members have been "politely encouraging" Republican lawmakers on Brown's behalf.
Brown acknowledged Friday that government is a "discredited institution" but called it "the mechanism by which all of us in this room and all of us in California articulate and work together on a common purpose."
Brown is promoting his budget in a statewide tour intended in part to link his budget proposals to education in the public view. He visited elementary schools in poorer areas of Stockton and Riverside before stopping Thursday at a wealthier high school in Santa Clarita.
"The trouble is we have a stereotype that government is the problem," he said. "And yet government also includes a classroom with 35 kids who come from sometimes very stressful family backgrounds."
Brown is preparing to release a revised budget proposal in May. He said it will "be along the lines of my first proposal," including both spending reductions and tax extensions. He said he thinks "we still have a very decent chance" for a budget deal with Republican lawmakers.
"I'm ready to make a deal," Brown said. "And if I can get some pension reform over here and some regulatory reform over here, and maybe some taxes over here, I'm ready to do it."
Brown was joined in the panel conversation Friday by executives who said California does not promote business as proactively as some other states. Brown said hiring a jobs czar is "a very active consideration we're looking at."
The audience included about 300 business leaders, and Guardino asked them, "Are we with Gov. Brown?"
Most people in the room applauded, and Guardino said, "I think it's unanimous."
But it wasn't, and Brown noticed.
"There's a few people who didn't applaud," he said. "But that's all right. It's a diverse crowd."
Brown was back in Northern California after the budget forum in Santa Clarita and an intimate fundraiser for President Barack Obama on Thursday. Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, were among a small crowd at a Brentwood restaurant that included George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown gestures during the 8th Annual CEO Summit at IBM offices in San Jose on Friday, April 22, 2011. (Associated Press Photo/ Paul Sakuma)