Brown's Countdown, Day 103: Governor's road tour in Santa Clarita

Published: Friday, Apr. 22, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

SANTA CLARITA – Gov. Jerry Brown continued his statewide push for tax extensions in a conservative district Thursday amid frustration from both sides that a budget deal has not been reached.

"It's sad that we're even having this thing," Scott Wilk, a member of the College of the Canyons board of trustees, told Brown at a forum in Los Angeles County. "You guys need to be adult and go do the right thing."

The Democratic governor, appearing with a Republican lawmaker for the first time on his budget tour, enjoyed a largely friendly audience. But Wilk accused Brown of not bending far enough to Republican demands for pension, regulatory and other government changes.

"You have your Nixon-going-to-China moment," he said. "Sir, I just, I hope that you seize it, and you will do the right thing and put these other reforms on the ballot with the tax extension."

Brown told about 150 people in the cafeteria at Hart High School that he is open to such changes. But he said many Republican proposals will not solve California's immediate problem, a $15.4 billion budget deficit.

"We can't say, 'Unless we solve everything, we're paralyzed and can't move forward,' " Brown said.

Brown was joined by Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita. The audience applauded his presence, but many grumbled about his opposition to Brown's proposal to extend higher taxes on income, vehicles and sales.

"Do what's best," Brian Breslin, a business teacher at the school and a negotiator for his union, told Smyth, adding that the people of Santa Clarita would "be there for you come Election Day."

Brown, seeking two Republican votes in each house to put his tax plan on a ballot, is appearing in cities statewide to pressure Republicans in their own districts. He visited a chemistry classroom at the high school, accompanied by administration officials.

"We've got to talk about the chemistry of the Legislature," Brown told the students. He motioned to Smyth, saying, "This is the key man."

Later, Brown told reporters that the effect of his budget tour is "this sort of new chemistry and mood that is created," believing partisanship in Sacramento may soften over time.

As in his previous two forums, in Riverside and Stockton, Brown's appearance Thursday was by invitation only. Republicans have criticized him for insulating himself, and California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro issued a statement characterizing Brown's tour as a means to "preach to the converted."

But Brown asked specifically for opponents to speak, and he let the forum go longer so they could.

Brown wore a small bandage on his nose. His wife and special counsel, Anne Gust Brown, said the governor "got a little thing taken off" for a test, but that it is not cancerous.

Though the audience was livelier than at previous forums, the rhetoric on the stage was ratcheted down. Not even a panelist's mispronunciation of Smyth's name could provoke him.

"Smyth," the legislator said after he was introduced at his alma mater, pronouncing the "y" like the "i" in "rice." "It's just my old high school, but that's cool."

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