The newly christened party kicked off its campaign by asking for a "no" vote on Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike. California Republican Party leaders organized the press conference to launch a statewide "whistle-stop tour" just as Brown had finished collecting signatures for his $9 billion tax initiative.
"Jerry Brown is turning in his signatures as we speak to make that (top tax rate) the highest rate in the country," said California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro. "We think that's the wrong way to go."
Standing next to a "Party of Yes" banner proclaiming "yes" on jobs, solutions and tax relief, they said the governor's plan would drive businesses and residents out of the state. They promoted their own budget proposal, which relies on deep cuts and one-time revenue maneuvers but does not raise taxes.
Del Beccaro wouldn't say how much he expected the cash-strapped party to spend against the governor's measure. "I'm not concerned about the cost," he said. "We're using alternative media. We're out there with volunteers. We're the party of volunteers, and we're going to continue to pursue that."
Some of those volunteers included about a dozen Tea Party Patriots who showed up in support of the GOP campaign launch. Patrick Wagner, a 60-year-old Grass Valley retired surgeon wearing a red Tea Party shirt, said he and his wife, Terry, wanted to speak out for "fiscal responsibility and getting our economic freedom back."
"The whole notion of taxing to try to find a way to correct the budget, it just doesn't work," he said. "We can't tax our way out of this kind of a horrifying position."
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, took particular issue with comments made at Thursday's event by Assemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach. The lawmaker said, "I've always felt that the people that work should live better than the people that don't work."
Silva was correct that California has a disproportionate share of the nation's welfare-to-work recipients, largely because the state still provides aid to children after their parents have exhausted their own time limit. But Wright pointed to recent state cuts that have already shrunk the time limit to four years and dropped cash grants below 1988 levels.
"What they're saying 'yes' to is additional cuts to education, health care and other vital services," Wright said. "And what they're saying 'yes' to are their millionaire backers."
PHOTO CREDIT: Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway speaks from the steps of the state Capitol as California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro listens on Thursday, May 3, 2012. Manny Crisostomo, Sacramento Bee