SACRAMENTO -- After wooing Republicans for months with personal appeals that won him praise from even his loudest opponents, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday gave up the hunt for a bipartisan deal on getting his tax extensions to the voters, declaring negotiations dead.
Democratic legislative leaders will now try to put a tax proposal on the ballot on their own, though they said a June election is now out of the picture. They have yet to decide on what approach they will take, but whether they try to force it through the Legislature through a majority vote or pursue a fall ballot initiative campaign, the climb just got steeper.
And the partisan heat between the two parties -- largely absent in recent months -- has returned to the Capitol with a vengeance.
Brown blamed Republicans for piling on extra demands when he said differences should have been narrowing this deep in the discussions.
"Each and every Republican legislator I've spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever changing list of collateral demands," Brown said in a statement.
Brown had sought two Republican votes in both the Senate and Assembly to get a required two-thirds vote on his plan to close a $26.6 billion deficit with a mix of spending reductions and an extension of the 2009 tax increases on sales, personal income and vehicles.
Republicans blasted Democrats for buckling to the demands of labor groups, saying that Brown's deep debt to his biggest political donors kept him from agreeing to most of their demands.
"The governor and legislative Democrats are obviously upset and lashing out at their inability to get buyoff from public employee unions for the reforms that the public supports and Republicans think are necessary to fix California," Senate GOP Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said in a written statement.
Brown said he will now take his case to the people. Only hours after breaking off talks, Brown uploaded a YouTube video defending his decision.
"We are not giving up," said Brown, wearing a sweater as he sat at a wooden table in his office with a California flag behind him. "Look, the problem has taken a decade to build up. This could take some time before we finally solve it. But I'm going to explore every possible avenue. There's more than one way to get to the goal."
For the better part of the last month, Brown held intense and private discussions with five Republican senators -- the so-called GOP 5 -- over the rollbacks they wanted in pension benefits to public employee unions, business regulations and spending restrictions on future government spending.
But talks were dealt what proved to be a fatal blow late last week when Dutton and his top budget negotiator, Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, took over talks and delivered a 53-point list of demands, including what Brown called in a letter back to Dutton "obscure aspects of labor law" and shifting the presidential primary to June. Brown continued discussions with individual legislators over the weekend, but to no avail.
"I was very surprised (and frankly, disappointed) that you came today with a very long list of demands (53 separate proposals) many of which are new and have no relationship whatsoever to the budget," Brown wrote in the letter Friday, which he released Tuesday. At the end of it, he wrote by hand, "Let's Get Moving!"
Republicans said they believe they have the support of the public on the issues they pushed.
"It is a sad commentary that the best interests of California play second fiddle to the self-serving interests of public employee unions," said Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, another of the GOP 5. "Unfortunately the go-to answer for Democrats always seems to be more taxes. Nothing has changed."
Labor groups said Republicans were not serious about compromise.
"It appears the Republicans were never negotiating in good faith," said Art Pulaski, the secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation. "Their ever-growing list of inflexible demands -- most of which had nothing to do with our current budget crisis -- frustrated any hope of compromise."
Conservatives cheered Republicans for refusing to allow a vote on taxes, a victory for anti-tax groups, talk show hosts, party activists and bloggers that had hammered the GOP for even negotiating with Brown.
"A tremendous victory for the GOP," wrote blogger Jon Fleischman. "By staying unified around core beliefs, Californians will see REAL tax relief on June 30th."
But Democrats were urged by their liberal base to take the fight directly to Republicans.
"CA GOP is exposed, weak, unwanted, extremist," wrote Robert Cruikshank, a Democratic activist and blogger. "Now is time for Brown and Dems to attack with everything they have."
Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said Democrats "will use the power of our majority to begin aggressively pursuing a different path. I think the governor learned what we've experienced in the Legislature over the past decade -- a political party increasingly on the fringe of California politics, which is ruled by radio talk show hosts, bloggers and they govern out of fear and are unwilling to do the basics of governance."
One of many key differences was over Brown's plan to close a tax loophole -- agreed to begrudgingly by Democrats in 2009 -- on out-of-state companies that would have allowed them to base their taxes on sales in the state. Critics say the so-called single sales factor, which would have cost the state as much as $1.5 billion a year starting July 1, was a disincentive for out-of-state companies to invest in the state.
Brown, in his statement, said "the Republicans demand that out-of-state corporations that keep jobs out of California be given a billion dollar tax break that will come from our schoolchildren, public safety and our universities. This I am not willing to do."
Dutton said that that amounted to a tax increase, which was not in the "fine print of his campaign pledge, as far as we know."
Before the rhetoric began to fly, the top aide to one of the Republicans negotiating with Brown, Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, spoke in regretful tones about not being able to reach an accord.
"We really think highly of Governor Brown," said Joe Justin. "We had highly productive conversations in the governor's office. But we are disappointed they couldn't get there. I know they're disappointed and I know we're disappointed. We thought we were close. The governor did a lot of heavy lifting. We did a lot of heavy lifting. But this has run its course. We're disappointed but we're done. And we respect their decision."