* Lawmakers will miss Thursday target for budget vote
* Budget talks between Brown, Republicans need more time
* Republicans oppose tax increases in budget plan
By Jim Christie
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California lawmakers
may delay a vote on a state budget plan until Monday, aides
said, in a sign that talks between Democratic Governor Jerry
Brown and Republicans are progressing.
Brown had hoped the Democratic-led legislature would vote
on a budget on Thursday but Republicans remain opposed to the
tax hikes included in the plan. The delay suggests there is
still room for compromise, although no guarantee.
California's budget talks are among the most closely
watched of any U.S. state because it has been burdened with
dramatic shortfalls in recent years due to slumping revenue.
This year's budget fight is getting added attention as
shaky state finances have weighed on the U.S. municipal debt
market and become a top issue in Washington.
Brown needs a few Republicans to sign on to tax increases
to open the door to a budget vote, but that is no easy task.
"Republicans believe reforms that force government to live
within its means need to be at the center of discussions and
that there is still time to debate a sensible spending plan
that does not include taxes," state Assembly Republican Leader
Connie Conway's spokeswoman said.
She said Assembly members were leaving the state capital of
Sacramento to return to their districts for the weekend.
A spokesman for the Assembly's speaker said the chamber's
members had been put "on call" through the weekend to return to
work should there be a breakthrough in budget talks. State
senators also were put on call, a spokesman for Senate
President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said.
The timing of a vote is seen as hinging on talks between
Brown and five Republican senators who are pushing plans for a
spending cap, a state pension system similar to the U.S.
government's, authority for private contractors to provide
public services and tax reforms.
Brown in January proposed a budget plan to tackle the state
deficit of more than $25 billion through mid-2012 with roughly
equal parts spending cuts and tax increases.
Democrats are reluctantly accepting the cuts, which
Republicans favor. But Republicans are balking at tax increases
that Democrats support.
The governor would put the question of tax increases to
voters in June with a measure asking them to extend tax hikes
that expire this year. He needs a two-thirds vote of the
legislature to put a measure on the ballot, meaning he must
secure a handful of Republican votes.
Without money generated by a tax measure, Brown says the
state budget would be balanced solely with spending cuts. That
would require deep cuts to popular education and public safety
spending on top of the deep cuts to health and welfare spending
in Brown's budget plan.
(Reporting by Jim Christie; editing by John Whitesides)
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