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The budget’s done. Who will own it?

Assembly Republicans reportedly will hold a news conference tomorrow to mark Friday as “Freedom from Higher Taxes Day,” on which the state’s temporary income, sales and car tax increases enacted in February 2009 will expire. Democrats say they should have musical entertainment from Nero and his fiddle, with seed corn served for lunch.

“While it is unfortunate that the Democrats’ majority vote budget plan includes illegal fee increases, irresponsible spending priorities and lack of funding certainty for K-12 and higher education, it is good news for Californians that it does not include a massive $58 billion tax increase,” Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, said yesterday. “As a result of Assembly Republicans standing united together to protect taxpayers, the average California will see $1000 in annual tax savings starting Friday. This tax relief will be a major boost to families and the economy.”

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President John Coupal put it more succinctly this morning, as Twitter requires: “Effective midnight tomorrow, multi-billion $ tax burden will be removed from the shoulders of CA taxpayers. Thank you Republicans! Victory!”

Few on the GOP side seem concerned – at least, not publicly – by the idea espoused in a Wall Street Journal article that Republicans not only failed to get other concessions in the budget deal, but now also have lost their prime bargaining chip to influence other policy such as pension reform.

Still, Republicans clearly are ready to own these reduced taxes. Democrats want to sure that ownership continues if this already painful budget – widely seen as based on some shaky income assumptions – goes south, necessitating even deeper midyear cuts.

“This is not a budget to celebrate. There’s a lot of pain here for a lot of people,” state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said last night. “We enacted a plan that preserves our opportunity for economic recovery, and look forward to giving Californians the chance to vote on making that recovery even stronger.”

Some Dems are needling their counterparts across the aisle.

“Reep Rapture Clock: T-39 hrs til tax redux to make up 4 bad St budget cuts. Q-why 0 Reeps voted 2 cut budget? A-tax cut unleash eco expansn!,” Democratic political consultant Steve Glazer – who ran Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign last year – tweeted this morning.

For those unaccustomed to reading tweet-speak, I’ll translate: Glazer asked why – if the tax cuts are such a great idea and guaranteed to spark economic expansion as GOP orthodoxy insists – not a single Republican actually voted for them yesterday. And Glazer clearly believes the “Reep Rapture” is every bit as likely to occur as was Harold Camping’s.

This, in a nutshell, will be your next year and a half, as Brown and the Legislature push to put a measure on next November’s ballot to restore the higher tax rates and raise the state’s revenue: Republicans taking a victory lap for holding the line on taxes, Democrats ensuring that Republicans take the blame for every untended senior citizen, cancelled school instruction day, tuition hike, dark courtroom, uninsured child and shuttered park they see.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.