The Democratic leader of the state Senate said Wednesday he is interested in the possibility of targeting Republican districts for budget cuts if GOP lawmakers keep refusing to let Californians vote on tax extensions.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters he has considered an idea floated by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer to cut funding in districts represented by Republicans.
Democrats, led by Gov. Jerry Brown, are seeking to renew increases to sales, personal income and vehicles taxes as an alternative to an all-cuts budget to close the state's remaining $15.4 billion shortfall.
Despite starting negotiations earlier this year, Brown has been unable to find the Republican votes needed in the Assembly and Senate to call a special election so voters can decide the matter.
Lockyer told the editorial board of the Bay Area News Group this week that if Republicans are demanding less government, their districts should get limited services.
Steinberg did not say whether he would act on the idea but said he would not favor cuts that impact children and the vulnerable.
"I think it's an interesting idea. I've actually thought some about it," Steinberg said.
"When it comes to basic services, convenient services that affect adults, you know, I have an open mind. Because you get the government that you pay for, plain and simple." Such a push would harm people who reside in California's interior. The state Legislature is dominated by Democrats, who hold a majority of seats, 77-42.
While Democrats represent densely populated cities and the coast, GOP members represent much of the Central Valley and Inland Empire in Southern California. Jann Taber, a spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, said Democrats are more interested in protecting unions.
Budget negotiations are expected to resume after Brown broke off talks last month with five Republicans in the Senate.
"There is a path to a budget solution that Senate Republicans have provided the governor and the legislative Democrats," Taber said.
"So if they're threatening cutting services in Republican districts, it's because they're unwilling to stand up to the public employee unions and allow voters to vote on a spending cap and pension reform as part of a budget deal."
Democrats have noted that state spending relative to the state economy has not grown but rather decreased since the recession and the housing industry downturn took a toll on the state budget.
The treasurer's office said the state's general fund spending represents $5.05 for every $100 of personal income in California. That compares to $6.02 per $100 of personal income back in 1975, when Ronald Reagan was governor.