SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown conceded Wednesday that he is considering a variety of paths to holding a special election on his tax extension proposal -- including a fall election.
Getting his tax proposal through the Legislature with Republican support remains his top priority, he said, but with the dimming prospects for a June election, pressure is building to explore other options.
"I can confirm I am not unconsidering anything that I ought to consider," Brown told reporters as he walked out of the Capitol to make brief remarks to a group celebrating California Agriculture Day.
"That's a very good sentence if you can play that. I'm not unconsidering anything that I should, as a conscientious governor, consider."
He said he continues to negotiate in good faith with Republicans and remains hopeful of an agreement on continuing the 2009 tax increases on income, sales and vehicle license fees. He needs two Republicans in the Senate and two in the Assembly to reach a two-thirds vote to move the measure through the Legislature.
"There's a sense on the part of some that they're going to come with something good," Brown said of the Republicans. "There are positive vibes."
Still, he said, he wasn't promising an immediate breakthrough.
"There is no final decision," he said. "You can take that to the bank. It isn't clear what the viable path forward as we speak. ... No one said it was going to be easy. Whichever way I look,
The chief spokesman for the Republicans meeting with Brown -- the GOP 5 -- declined to comment.
Brown missed his self-imposed deadline of March 10, which was the date legislators needed to approve a ballot measure that could reach a June 7 ballot -- though he continued to insist it's doable.
"We'll know the deadline when we pass it," he said. "But time is running out."
Brown said he was sorting through "a lot of complex alternatives with all sorts of implications. We're looking into stuff."
The governor has pushed to get an early June election for two reasons: he wants to be able to tap voters before vacation season, and he wants to do so before the temporary taxes revert to pre-2009 levels. If they do, Brown would have difficulty avoiding the charge that he's raising taxes. Polls have shown that voters approve Brown's plan to continue the same level of taxes but turn sour at the idea of paying higher taxes.
Brown said he had good conversations with a number of Republicans this week, though, even at this late date, they have not narrowed down common points of understanding.
"There is not as yet a clear delineation as to what will seal the deal," Brown said. "We're still waiting for what I'd call a term sheet, what's the bedrock of what Republicans need to put this before the people."
Republicans are seeking significant rollbacks on pension benefits for public employee unions, business regulations and curbs on spending. Brown, Democratic legislative leaders and their labor allies say the Republicans are asking for too much in exchange for allowing voters to weigh in.
"The challenge for the governor is to sort through the myriad Republicans he's talked to in order to see who's just posturing and who's serious," said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "I think he's had some success ferreting that out, and he's seeing what he can do with those with the potential to be truly serious about budget negotiations."
Holding a November election would require Brown's labor allies to gather signatures at breakneck speed after waiting through what is typically a lengthy period for the attorney general to approve ballot language.
A ballot measure must qualify 130 days before the election, which means all the preparation -- signature gathering, the Attorney General's title and summary, fiscal analysis and the counting and verifying of the signatures -- would have to be completed by July 1.
A November election could also create havoc for the budget. Lawmakers would have to consider making an extra $12 billion in spending cuts -- unlikely to happen under Democrats, who've already shaved $14 billion off the $26.6 billion deficit. They would more likely reprise the 2009 drama of issuing I.O.U.s with the accompanying credit downgrades, legislative observers said.