Calif. state legislators across political spectrum dislike Brown's budget

Katcho Achadjian billed himself as a new, more flexible kind of Republican when he ran for an Assembly seat on the Central Coast last year.

Unlike nearly all of the state's Republican legislators, Achadjian, a former San Luis Obispo County supervisor, had refused to sign a pledge to oppose raising taxes.

He told The Tribune editorial board, "I'd rather not make promises when I don' know what the future will be, 100 percent."

That comment unleashed ridicule from a much-read conservative blog and from anti-tax activists, who called Achadjian an unreliable soldier in the war against big government.

Within weeks, Achadjian signed the no-tax pledge. He went on to his win his primary and the race.

While newly inaugurated Gov. Jerry Brown promised in his campaign to spur bipartisan cooperation, the commitments already made by many of the state's 120 legislators will complicate his task.

On Monday, the governor is set to propose a budget that includes deep spending cuts to higher education, welfare and other programs, and asks voters to extend taxes scheduled to expire in July. He has said he wants a deal on the package within 60 days.

But pressures bombarding legislators of both major parties, from anti-tax groups on the right and unions on the left, will make his job harder.Democrat Richard Pan, for example, won a tough battle for a Sacramento Assembly district seat last year with more than $1.2 million in union support.

In a May voter guide, he said state government should be more efficient, but added that "increasing revenue is essential to solving our budget crisis."

Pan's two Democratic primary opponents, who received far less union support, suggested slashing prison budgets to help close the deficit.The result: Pan won the Democratic nomination, then scored an impressive November win in a district with a slight Republican edge.Pan said last week that he would cast a wary eye on proposals to cut budgets.

"Some of the cuts are really going to lead to both short-term and long-term costs to the economy," Pan said. "We need to look at the value of different services."

On the Republican side, all but two legislators have signed the no-tax pledge issued by the national group Americans for Tax Reform. Led by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, the group warned on Thursday that it would consider putting the tax issue on the ballot a violation of the pledge.

Achadjian declined to comment on Brown's budget proposal or why he changed his mind about making a no-tax promise.

But five Republicans who signed the pledge, then voted for taxes in 2009, are no longer in the Legislature. They either left after they hit their term limits or lost elections for higher office.

That history will surely be on lawmakers' minds as Brown attempts to persuade enough Republicans to get the tax extension on the ballot, said Dave Gilliard, a political consultant for newly elected Sen. Ted Gaines, a Republican.The refusal of Gaines' opponent to sign the pledge became a central campaign issue in the GOP primary for the special election on Nov. 2.

For their part, Republican leaders have speculated that Brown could put his measure before voters by amending an existing initiative, which would require a simple majority vote. They have asked for a legislative counsel opinion on the issue.

Otherwise, Brown would need a two-thirds approval, which would mean persuading at least two Republican Assembly members and two GOP senators as well as every Democratic legislator to support his plan.

"I don't think there's any maneuvering to be had," Gilliard said about lawmakers and the Republican tax pledge. "Any maneuvering is going to annoy voters to the point of throwing them out of office."

Brown's plan will also face resistance from Democrats under pressure to protect education and social programs that have already been slashed in previous budgets.

Brown has said his budget's strength is exactly its mix of elements unsavory to both major parties. Its combination of cuts, an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion in tax extensions and internal borrowing bridges the state's estimated $25 billion-plus budget deficit over the next 18 months.

"I think people want a balanced approach and not anything that will lean to the extreme, or just one side," Brown said last week. "California can't work unless people get out of their narrow perspectives."