Dutton At Forum To Listen

Katy Grimes: Much ado is being made over Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton choosing to sit in the audience with colleagues today at Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s budget forum, instead of on the dais with the other Senate and Assembly leaders.

But according to Dutton’s Communication Director, Jann Taber, Dutton announced more than one week ago that he would be attending the budget briefing to listen. “It’s a time to listen, not talk,” Taber reported Dutton saying.

Taber also pointed out that the event was supposed to be a briefing about facts on the budget crisis, and a time to listen and absorb the facts, and not hash out solutions.

Governor-elect Brown personally invited Sen. Dutton to be a part of the leadership panel, however, Taber said Dutton expressed his intention to listen from the audience. The panel included Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, Controller John Chiang, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, as well as Finance Director Ana Matosantos, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and Brown. Conway was the only elected Republican on the panel.

But today’s briefing turned into a forum rather quickly, and appeared to be an opportunity to tee-up talk of “revenue” increases, with many Republicans questioning whether the budget facts presented at the forum were complete.

Taber said Dutton’s primary concern and focus remains on the immediate budget crisis.  “We will take some of the pain away from next years’ budget if the immediate $6.1 billion shortfall is solved,” Taber said. Legislators are facing another $19 billion budget shortfall next year.

The Senate Republican Caucus met yesterday with Brown,  Matosantos, and Taylor, and received the budget information prior to today’s briefing.

Several Assembly and Senate members have confirmed that Brown made it clear in meetings that he wants to put an end to temporary budget fixes, and work toward implementing long-term budget solutions – by March. And there is talk already about getting an initiative on the June ballot, as Brown promised during his campaign.

Meanwhile, Dutton remains firm on the immediate need to bridge the existing deficit before talking long-term economic fixes.

DEC. 8, 2010

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