- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Unaware that a live microphone was broadcasting their words around the Capitol, Assembly Democrats meeting behind closed doors debated prolonging California’s budget crisis for political gain.

Members of the coalition of liberal Democrats talked about slowing progress on the budget as a means of increasing pressure on Republicans.

A microphone had been left on during the closed meeting Monday, and the conversation was transmitted to about 500 “squawk boxes” that enable staff members, lobbyists and reporters to listen in on legislative meetings.

Some members of the group, including Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, said extending the budget crisis could improve chances for a ballot initiative that would make it easier for the Democrats to raise taxes by lowering the threshold for passage from two-thirds to 55 percent.

“No one is running” for re-election, she said, according to a transcript made by Republicans. “And maybe you end up better off than you would have, and maybe you don’t. But what you do is show people that you can’t get to this without a 55 percent vote.”

Assembly Republican Leader Dave Cox said he was disappointed that Democrats would consider using the budget crisis to their political advantage.

Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, a Democrat, tried to brush aside criticism of the meeting, calling it a “bull session” of no significance.

“For anyone, Democrat or Republican, to think there is some political advantage in this crisis, I think they are wrong,” he said.

Miss Goldberg said her comments were part of a discussion about whether it would be better to make deeper cuts this year to give taxpayers a taste of how bad things would be without a tax increase.

“It meant whether or not we do the things this year or next year that let the public understand how serious the situation is,” she said.

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