By News 8's Marcella Lee
San Diego (CBS8) - In his first State of the State address since taking office - Governor Jerry Brown said Monday it's time for the voters to decide how to deal with California's 25 billion dollar budget gap.
The choice: deeper and deeper cuts or extended higher taxes.
It was a relatively short, 14 minute speech.. no frills, no teleprompter.. and all business about the budget.. with Governor Brown pushing to let the people decide.
It was his 8th State of the State speech, but his first this century, and this one was the bleakest by far, with Governor Brown starting his new term in office facing a 25 billion dollar budget deficit.
He said, "California faces a crisis that is real and unprecedented. Each of us will have to struggle with our conscience and our constituencies as we hammer out a sensible plan to put our state on a sound fiscal footing, honestly balance our budget and position California to regain its historic momentum."
Governor Brown continued, "We are still a very rich society. In two years alone, Californians will have added more than $100 billion to their personal income. Yet, our State's credit rating is the lowest of the 50 states, unemployment is higher than the national average and some journalists are calling California a failed state."
His plan for a balanced budget includes cutting about 12 billion in spending, and raising about 12 billion by extending temporary taxes that voters would have to approve in a special election in June.
Citing the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia as people there call for political change, he called for support from Republicans.
"We in California can't say now is the time to block a vote of the people," adding, " It's time for legislative check in with the people of California."
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) says he'd support a special election if voters not only had the choice to extend taxes, but also had a choice to cut taxes. He told CBS8, "Small businesses and families are really suffering right now. I believe a lower tax burden will help get the economy going which will by itself reduce the deficit by putting people back to work."
Without a tax extension, though, Governor Brown warned Californians to prepare for even deeper cuts, saying, "Unfortunately, these would most probably include: elementary, middle and high schools, the University of California, the California State University system, prisons and local public safety funding, and vital health programs."
In order for a special election to happen in June, Governor Brown needs support from two-thirds of the California Legislature, meaning he needs 3 Republican Senators and 2 Republican Assemblymembers to vote with the Democrats.
A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows 66-percent of California voters said they like the idea of a special election to consider budget issues. Fifty-eight percent said they're satisfied with Brown's plan to fix the budget with a mix of cuts and taxes.