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Dueling Rallies Target Potential State Budget Swing Vote

A fierce debate over California’s budget is right around the corner. Democratic legislative leaders say they plan to call votes in the Senate and Assembly as soon as Wednesday's deal or no deal.

That has interest groups focused on a small group of moderate Republicans, seen as potential swing votes. One of those lawmakers felt the squeeze from both sides Monday.

Mike Burtch and Marie Roberson have been close for decades, since they met in a first-grade classroom in Turlock. Burtch was Roberson’s teacher, and their families quickly became friends.

But Monday, they stood on opposite sides of the street, outside the Modesto office of Republican State Senator Anthony Cannella.

“Obviously, we don’t agree on . . .politics, but if it weren’t for him and his wife, I would not have stayed in church," Burtch and Roberson said.

The teacher stood with union members and advocates for seniors and the disabled. Burtch wanted the senator to vote for a budget deal that includes Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax extensions.

“Without these taxes, our schools, our health care programs –- all those things that are really important to me and should be important to everybody in California -- I think are going to be in very serious, serious trouble. They already are, but they’re gonna be in worse trouble,” Burtch explained.

The pupil is now the coordinator of the Turlock Tea Party Patriots. She’s concerned that the senator could potentially support placing the governor’s tax extensions on a special election ballot.

“He’s sitting on the fence right now, and he’s trying to compromise and work with Brown on issues. There is no compromise. There is straight line – no taxes – there doesn’t need to be," Robertson said.

Roberson did not vote for Cannella last year. She believes he’s too moderate. In fact, it’s possible none of the protesters on either side of the street voted for the senator.

Cannella’s a businessman, the former mayor of Ceres and a former Democrat. So far, he’s generally voted Republican but broke with his party to support several union contracts. Cannella said he understands the strong feelings on the left and the right, but…

“So if you look at what I’m working on, these are regulations that will solve the problem so that adequate revenue does flow into the state of California so we can pay for the things that are important to us – like education and public safety and taking care of the disabled," Canella said.

Cannella said he’s pushing for a hard spending cap and significant changes to California’s pension and regulatory systems. His staff is in talk with the governor’s office.

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