Budget deficit tops Legislature's 2012 priority list


It's an election year, and the Democratic-led Legislature promises a full agenda, including making budget deficits zero, which they've been trying to do for years.

"I joke, next to my desk there's a little indentation in my wall where I beat my head every day." Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills.

The state Legislature may have gaveled in a new 2012 session, but the problems are still the same. Lawmakers will once again have to tackle the nagging budget deficit, estimated to be $13 billion.

This time, though, Democrats want voters' help since Republicans wouldn't raise taxes. Gov. Jerry Brown is readying a ballot measure to increase the income tax on the wealthy and the sales tax on everyone else to prevent even deeper budget cuts.

"I think it's going to be a failure because I think the voters are going to be even less receptive to these massive tax increases to fund a broken government than the Republicans were," said Assm. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

Already the Courage Campaign is helping Democrats by pushing the tax hikes through an online ad featuring Kim Kardashian. It highlights how the reality star made $12 million in 2010, but her tax rate isn't that much more than the average Californian.

One of the first bills introduced this session shows what's high on the Republicans' list of priorities -- high speed rail. With the price tag now ballooning to nearly $100 billion, they want to ask voters to re-affirm their 2008 approval of bullet trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"It was a whole different set of dynamics then what is true now of cost, of actual ridership, and the state of California's fiscal situation and the economy," said St. Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale.

"That vision has to be based on fiscal reality, and I think that's what the Republicans are bringing up and I don't disagree with that," said St. Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. "I don't disagree with that."

The budget cuts aren't over. Brown's tax package only erases half the deficit, so he's warning there's more slashing to come.

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