Gov. Brown in LA for first time since taking office

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Shirley Jahad/KPCC

Gov. Jerry Brown arrives at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on Feb. 10, 2011, for his first visit to Southern California since taking office.

California Gov. Jerry Brown arrived in Southern California Thursday for the first time since taking office the beginning of January. He's speaking before the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and trying to win business leaders over to his plan to balance the state budget.

The governor wants to extend sales, income and car tax increases for another five years to help balance the budget. He says he is trying various tactics to get business leaders on board.

“First charm them, then inform them and finally challenge them to rise above their customary way of looking at things and pull together as Californians,” says Brown. “Because we have a crisis and it won’t be solved by democrats alone or labor unions but by business and all the different leaders in our society. So I am going to call on everyone to get out of their comfort zone, make some tough choices and collaborate.”

Brown is also calling for billions of dollars in cuts to balance the books. And he says he will consider pension reform over the long term. He needs a two-thirds vote of lawmakers to get his proposal to extend tax increases on the ballot.

Brown says his message is clear: “to finally and in an honest way clean up the budget mess in Sacramento, restore our credit rating by having a budget that lives within its revenue. And return as much power to local schools, cities and counties. That’s my message and that’s what I’ve been working on and will work on over the next several months.”

To apparently embody the austere budget times, Brown flew coach on Southwest Airlines from Sacramento Burbank — much to the surprise of the passengers sitting next to him and around him.

So how do you get Republicans and business leaders on board with extending tax increases?

“You watch,” says the governor, making a gesture with his hands like a magician. “Its called prestidigitation. I can barely pronounce it, but I know it’s a good word.”

It’s a word that actually means slight of hand. And Brown may need some magic to win over business leaders. Still he says he wants to know if anyone has a better plan.

“In fact, I’ve been looking for an alternative. And I challenge anyone: come up with something better than what I’ve put on the table. And if something’s better, we’ll take it or take parts of it.”

The governor says it will take labor leaders, business leaders and others to help get the state out of its financial hole and onto what he calls “a path of fiscal rectitude.” He wants a special election in June for voters to weigh in on extending the tax increases.

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