After years of being labeled the "Party of No" by majority Democrats, California Republican leaders stood under rainy skies Thursday outside the Capitol to dub themselves the "Party of Yes."
The newly christened party kicked off its campaign by asking for a "no" vote on Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike.
California Republican Party leaders organized the press conference to launch a statewide whistle-stop tour just as Brown finished collecting signatures for his $9 billion tax initiative.
"Jerry Brown is turning in his signatures as we speak to make that (top tax rate) the highest rate in the country," said California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro. "We think that's the wrong way to go."
Standing next to a "Party of Yes" banner proclaiming "yes" on jobs, solutions and tax relief, they said the governor's plan would drive businesses and residents out of the state. They promoted their own budget proposal, which relies on deep cuts and one-time revenue maneuvers but does not raise taxes.
Del Beccaro wouldn't say how much he expected the cash-strapped party to spend against the governor's measure.
"I'm not concerned about the cost," he said. "We're using alternative media. We're out there with volunteers. We're the party of volunteers, and we're going to continue to pursue that."
Some of those volunteers included about a dozen tea party patriots who showed up in support of the GOP campaign launch.
Patrick Wagner, a 60-year-old Grass Valley retired surgeon wearing a red tea party shirt, said he and his wife, Terry, wanted to speak out for "fiscal responsibility and getting our economic freedom back."
"The whole notion of taxing to try to find a way to correct the budget, it just doesn't work," he said. "We can't tax our way out of this kind of a horrifying position."
Brown, speaking to a business group in San Jose, confirmed that he had collected enough signatures to place the tax measure on November's ballot.
"We should have them all," the Democratic governor said.
Constrained by a short timeline, Brown and his supporters raced to collect more than 800,000 valid voter signatures by early this month, relying on robotic telephone calls, mailers and payment of as much as $3 each for signatures gathered on the street.
Brown had no comment about the Republican effort, except to say it wasn't news.
In his speech to business leaders, Brown suggested he will propose additional spending cuts in his May budget revision. His tax proposal, he said, is "reasonable."
"Vote for the tax," Brown said. "Suck it in."