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Gov. Brown says he is ready for austerity of voters don’t approve new taxes Nov. 6

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POSTED September 17, 2012 12:41 a.m.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown said he is prepared to live frugally if voters don’t pass his tax increase proposal in November, and as evidence said he recently ate a two-day-old tuna sandwich for lunch.

Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle that California’s 37 million residents will face a “day of reckoning” when they must decide just how much government they want pay for.

The governor has made austerity a hallmark of his administration, telling state workers they must turn in their cellphones, selling off state vehicles, severely reducing employee travel and cutting billions from the general fund. He said he has already started saving money by not replacing things in his office, including a stained rug he inherited from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“This is my desk, I paid for it,” he said, in an interview at his Sacramento office. “That desk, I paid for that. ... That little thing belonged to my father. That table, I paid for that, OK? I didn’t fix the rug. That’s Arnold’s rug.”

Brown said he plans to raise at least $30 million to promote Proposition 30, which would temporarily raise the state sales tax by a half-cent and increase income taxes for people who make more than $250,000. About $6 billion in cuts will be triggered automatically if voters reject the measure.

“We had it easy and now the moment of truth is upon us,” Brown said. “We’ve got to pay for what we want.”

If Brown’s initiative passes, the additional revenue would help close California’s ongoing budget deficit and provide schools with the constitutionally required funding to which they are entitled. It also would provide guaranteed money to local governments to pay for Brown’s plan that shifts certain convicts from state prison to county jails.

Brown’s measure faces a rival initiative on the November ballot funded by Los Angeles civil rights attorney Molly Munger, which would raise income taxes on nearly all Californians to fund schools. The wealthy would see the largest increase if Proposition 38 passes.

“What we need to do this year is we need to save our public schools, and we need to get out of this budget crisis in a near term way and give us some breathing room on all those big question issues,” Munger said.

The governor likened Munger’s initiative to putting icing on a burned cake.

“You can’t fool around with the frosting,” he said. “You have to deal with the cake.”

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