SACRAMENTO -- He said he is still on a "conciliatory path" in budget negotiations, but Gov. Jerry Brown took some shots at Republicans on Monday night for blocking his plan to hold a special election on tax extensions.
Speaking to hundreds of labor activists at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Sacramento at Labor's 2011 Joint Legislative Conference, Brown said Republicans' answer to his entreaties for a deal on taxes so far is, "This is your problem. You ran for governor, you solve it.' "
Brown is trying to close a $26.6 billion deficit with a mix of cuts and the extension of the 2009 tax increases on purchases, income and vehicles. The Legislature last week approved $14 billion in spending cuts, funding shifts and loans, but with no GOP votes.
"If you're not going to vote for cuts, if you're not going to vote to extend taxes, if you're not going to vote to eliminate redevelopment, then what the hell are you going to do?" Brown said. "By the way, if they're not going to do anything, why even take a paycheck?"
That remark got the loudest ovation from the labor crowd, which later erupted with chants of "Let us vote! Let us vote!"
Brown said the chants reminded him of the final thrust of his 1992 presidential campaign, when, at the Democratic national convention at Madison Square Garden, delegates chanted "Let Jerry Speak!" (Bill Clinton gave him a few minutes of podium time to quiet down the 596 delegates who had voted for Brown.)
"I say let California vote," said Brown, his voice raspy from endless hours of talks with allies and foes alike.
Seeking out the friendly embrace of labor groups in a public way suggests Brown may be switching gears toward a more public campaign mode to apply pressure on Republicans.
His appearance before the labor group came a day after the state Republican party finished its three-day convention, in which delegates approved a resolution opposing tax extensions, even if they're tied to reforms Republicans are seeking.
Late Sunday night, Brown posted a three-minute, 17-second video on YouTube, shot from the governor's office and delivered unscripted, in which he implored voters to call Republicans and demand a vote.
Brown said he continues to talk with Republicans, and is still hopeful he can work a deal that nets two Republicans in the Senate and two in the Assembly for the two-thirds vote he needs for a special election.
With little sign of an agreement, Democrats may be close to muscling a special election vote through the Legislature on majority vote, but haven't reached that point, Brown said.
"I'm not prepared to cease negotiating in good faith," he told reporters after his address. "I was just talking to individuals a few hours ago. But I do recognize time is running out, so the moment of truth is rapidly approaching."