It could also decide political careers.
"This will probably be the end of a political career for me," Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Claremont, announced last week on AM radio show where his potential support of new taxes was called into question.
Adams has said recently that he would support tax increases to help resolve the state's $42 billion budget deficit if the solution also includes a hard cap on spending and permanent cuts to some programs.
Adams' statements, and similar comments made by several other Republican legislators, flies in the face of a "no new taxes" pledge most Republicans signed last year.
The change of heart has inspired the John and Ken Show radio program on KFI AM-640 to castigate Adams - and three other Republican lawmakers - on the air.
Hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou have started a "heads on a stick" campaign calling on listeners to tell Republicans to "stand firm on taxes or else."
"Listeners think (the campaign) is right on, they are ready to run out with sticks themselves. There is going to be a tax revolt if (lawmakers) do this... there is going to be a big backlash," Kobylt said. "We'll see propositions to reverse the taxes, and efforts to throw these guys out."
"It is insulting when the economy is this bad, to grab extra money for things that didn't exist five
The popular radio show had gotten results from similar campaigns in the past - it was key in getting support in Los Angeles County for the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.
Kobylt said earlier this week that since Adams' Jan. 22 interview, the program has not received a single email or phone call in his defense.
"You are done dude," one caller said. "You vote for this, you are done."
But the assemblyman said he has been "happily surprised" by constituent support he has received since the show and subsequent press.
"It's come from people like me who don't want new taxes, but understand the situation," Adams said.
Adams has concluded that cuts alone cannot close the state's growing budget deficit.
"Look, we spend $42 billion a year on K-12 education, and 85-90 percent of that is on salary and benefits. Those are contracted, collective bargaining agreements. Those contracts cannot just be opened and reversed 15 percent," Adams said. "We would get challenged in court, and the government would lose. It would be a colossal waste of time."
Because revenue increases require two-thirds support of lawmakers, Democrats need at least three Republicans in the Assembly and two Republicans in the Senate for any budget fix that includes new taxes.
In the past, Democrats have been able to pick off individual Republicans' votes.
And some of those Republicans have paid for it by losing their seats, said Matt Klink, a Republican political consultant with Cerrell Associates.
But in recent years, Republicans have remained unified in their opposition to new taxes, Klink said.
Adams' and other Republicans' fates could depend on what kind of package is negotiated, where party leadership stands on the package, and how voters react, said Klink and former GOP political consultant Allan Hoffenblum.
"If a package is ultimately crafted that includes long-term budget reforms, that Republicans can point to and say... `We got these reforms because of yielding on tax increase,' then voters will say, that is what lawmakers are supposed to do - work and compromise," Klink said. "However, if (negotiations) blow up, it could be fraught with political disaster for Adams."
"It is the equivalent of walking a tight rope - there is a big prize, but it is also fraught with danger."
Adams recognizes that a vote for taxes might result in his end.
"I know that I am putting my political career on the line. I am not doing this because I have some inflated sense of martyrdom," he said.
Nor is not acting as a party renegade, Adams said.
"My party and I stand together, even in this, we stand together. We make this as a unified decision," he said.
At the same time, when it comes time for votes to be counted on any negotiated plan, not all Republicans will vote yes.
"It will absolutely be a deal that gets the necessary votes pending," Adams said. "No deal is ever going to have universal support."
Democrats may have to count on the support of some members of their own party who won Republican seats in November and themselves did not vote on parts of the Democrat proposal to increase taxes in December.
Adams' seat used to be considered safely Republican. However, in November, he won with just 51 percent of the vote. Election results and registration numbers suggest that the seat is increasingly up for grabs, Hoffenblum said.
Therefore, a vote for taxes would mean that Adams, and several Republicans in situations like his, would not only have to worry about a challenge from the right during primaries, but also from Democrats during the regular election, he said.
With this in mind, Kobylt promised to continue his heads on a stick campaign until November 2010.
Still, Adams said his fate is not sealed.
"No one knows in politics," he said. "Politics is a murky game."