Newly elected Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday blasted opponents of his plan to reduce California's massive deficit by comparing their opposition to a referendum on proposed tax increases to oppression in Egypt and Tunisia.
"When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can't say now is the time to block a vote of the people," the Democrat said in his first State of the State speech since being elected in November to a third term as California's chief executive.
Brown, who previously served two terms as governor beginning in 1975, has proposed a special election in June to let voters choose whether to extend higher vehicle fees and sales and income taxes to help balance a $25 billion deficit, the largest state deficit in the nation. The $12.5 billion in budget cuts would be paired with temporary extension of current taxes and a realignment of government that requires a vote before it could become effective.
In his remarks, Brown told Democrats who are hesitant to make budget reductions in programs, and Republicans who are against extending taxes, that he understood where they were coming from but, "things are different this time."
"From the time I proposed what I believe to be a balanced approach to our budget deficit -- both cuts and a temporary extension of current taxes -- dozens of groups affected by one or another of the proposed cuts have said we should cut somewhere else instead. Still others say we should not extend the current taxes but let them go away. So far, however, these same people have failed to offer even one alternative solution," Brown said.
While California's budget woes are critical, the state hasn't quite reached the pandemonium stage of Egypt, which has seen more than a week of rioting in protests over frustrations with the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak. Last month in Tunisia, thousands took to the streets to protest tight state control that resulted in the country's president stepping down.
California state Sen. Jean Fuller, a Republican, said the only similarity she sees between California and Egypt is "whether the leaders are listening" to the people. Fuller told FoxNews.com that Brown was "speaking about a large fraction of disenfranchised people" in Egypt, but in California, voters already "have spoken on the ballot."