LOS ANGELES – California governor Jerry Brown called Monday for a public vote on extending tax hikes to help curb the state’s colossal debts, invoking the popular uprising in Egypt to back his appeal.
In his first “state of the State” address since succeeding Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown warned that California will not create the jobs it needs “unless we get our financial house in order.”
As part of those efforts he is pushing for a popular ballot in June to mandate the extension of tax hikes needed to help rein in California’s estimated $25-billion budget shortfall.
Republican lawmakers have said they will not allow a public vote on taxes, but Brown, a Democrat, compared this to thwarting the popular will as in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak is defying a popular uprising.
“When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people.
“My plan to rebuild California requires a vote of the people, and frankly, I believe it would be irresponsible to exclude the people from this process,” he added.
The 2011-2012 budget plans — announced after after 72-year-old Brown took office — cut spending by 12.5 billion dollars including an 8-10 percent cut in public employees’ salaries.
The cuts notably target welfare spending, health care and services for the disabled, while extending recent tax hikes on a temporary basis to help rein in California’s budget shortfall.
In 2009 a budget crisis pushed California, which would have the world’s eighth largest economy if it were a country, to the brink of bankruptcy, sending its credit-rating plunging and forcing it to pay bills with IOUs.
Brown, who was first California’s governor from 1975-1983, said the cuts would be “painful” but necessary to revive the state.
“When we get our budget in balance, California will be in a strong position to take advantage of its many assets and its strategic location on the Pacific Rim.
“As the countries of Asia and south of our border continue to thrive and expand their trade, our state will play a leading role, as it always has, and reap unimagined benefits,” he added.