Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said in a speech today that her caucus is willing to help break the state's budget impasse - if Democrats abandon their call for tax extensions.
Conway suggested that it's time for a new approach, now that Gov. Jerry Brown's attempts to pick off two Republican votes for his own budget proposal have not worked, nor have Democratic lawmakers' attempts to dictate budget solutions.
Speaking to the Sacramento Press Club, Conway said she has made it clear to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez that her phone lines are open.
"We told him, he knows this, that we're willing to work with him on a budget that does not raise taxes but still could have bipartisan support," the Tulare Republican said.
Playfully, Conway pointed out that legislators do not necessarily have to march in lockstep with Brown, who vetoed Democrats' budget proposal last week.
"People have joked about, 'Who was the last governor who ever had a veto override?' Oh yeah, I remember that," Conway said, without stating explicitly that the answer is Brown, in the 1970s, during his first stint as governor.
Conway did not unveil a new proposal today, but she pitched the "road map" released by Republicans in May that relied on more spending cuts, fund shifts and a spike in state tax revenues to bridge a then-$15.4 billion shortfall.
The GOP plan called for funding education at the same level as Brown proposed in January. It also suggested slicing $1.1 billion from spending for state workers, saving about $1.1 billion by permitting more contracting for state services, and taking $2.3 billion from funds for First 5 children's programs and Proposition 63 mental-health services.
Conway said that Republicans will continue to fight any attempt to raise taxes or to suspend Proposition 98, the state's minimum guarantee for education funding.
The GOP leader left open the possibility of placing onto the ballot a measure to let voters decide whether to extend temporary taxes imposed two years ago. But she dismissed the notion of a "bridge tax" to retain such revenue pending balloting.
"Putting something to a vote, without a bridge tax, is a different conversation than (imposing) a bridge tax and then having a vote," Conway said.
She shrugged off Democrats' criticism of the Republican "road map" as a gimmick-filled approach that would do little to solve the state's ongoing imbalance between revenues and spending.
"It's politics, we all understand that," Conway said of the criticism. "At the Capitol, politics rules."
* Updated at 5:30 p.m. to include Conway's comment about a bridge tax.