Hours after vetoing the state budget, Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he will continue negotiating with Republican lawmakers at least until month's end.
"We need four Republican votes, and in the next several days I'm going to do everything I can," Brown said at a press conference at his office in Los Angeles. "I'll move heaven and earth to get those votes."
The veto was widely viewed as crucial politically to Brown, who staked his campaign and first six months in office on his promise to adopt a spending plan balanced without accounting maneuvers. To abandon that effort would have weakened him greatly, observers said.
Brown has failed for months to find the two Republican votes needed in each house to put tax extensions on a ballot, a central part of his budget plan. He said today he wouldn't rule out targeting cuts in Republican districts if no deal can be reached, but he suggested his veto could move talks forward.
"For the first time in history, the state budget has been vetoed," Brown said. "That's big, and it sends a powerful message that all of us have to do more, we have to rise to a difficult but higher level. And I am confident we're going to get a better budget. Whether I can get the Republicans to vote, that remains to be seen. But I'm certainly going to give them a chance."
By vetoing the budget package immediately - the veto came less than 24 hours after the Legislature approved the budget package - the Democratic governor reclaimed some control of the budget debate, observers said.
"It's a strong move on his part," Republican strategist Rob Stutzman said. "It keeps him in control of the agenda."
Still, the veto came far earlier than expected. Lawmakers believed Brown would use at least some of the 12 days he had to consider the budget package to continue negotiating with Republicans.
Brown said he did not tell Democratic leaders ahead of Wednesday's vote that he would veto the package. He said he did not know he would veto the package until after reading it.
Brown did not veto several trailer bills in the budget package, and he said he does not plan to veto them all.
"There's some that I think could be very helpful," he said.
He declined to talk about them specifically, including redevelopment, but he later spoke favorably about a measure to force Amazon.com and other online retailers to collect sales tax, calling it a "common sense idea."
Brown is not an inflexible politician, but neither has he hesitated to use the veto. Governor before from 1975 to 1983, Brown vetoed a 14.5 percent pay raise for state employees in 1979. He was overridden by the Legislature, something it has done only four times since 1946.
Brown believed when he took office that he could reach a budget deal with the Legislature by March and extend temporary tax increases in an election this month. The first six months of his term were devoted almost exclusively to the budget, at the expense of any other agenda.
Republicans are seeking pension and regulatory changes and spending cap in their talks with Brown. Talks most recently broke down over Brown's proposal to extend temporary tax increases until after an election.
Brown said failure to reach a budget agreement would be on Republican lawmakers' hands.
"Whatever expertise I may bring here, I can't overcome the free will of a Republican legislator," he said. "They can do whatever they want. All I can do is appeal to their higher nature."