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Runner steps down as chair

Pressure to vote for tax increase increase partially to blame for resignation

Posted: July 10, 2009 8:49 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2009 10:00 a.m.
 
Pressure to vote for a tax increase to settle the California budget dispute played a role in California state Senator George Runner's resignation as chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, according to a Runner aide.

Runner has held the position of Caucus chairman since 2005, a year after he was first elected to the Senate. As chairman of the State Senate Republican Caucus, Runner was responsible for helping the party set its platform, said Will Smith, a Runner spokesman

Pressure by the Democrats to vote for a tax increase to settle the state budget weighed on Runner and had some impact on his decision to step down, Smith said.

"There was a lot of pressure because of his position as a leader in the Republican party for the senator to vote for a tax increase," Smith said.

Runner refused to vote for a tax increase, stating that the solution to California's budget woes are spending cuts not tax hikes, Smith added.

In a statement released Friday, Runner talked about his future plans, which include a ballot initiative and running for the California State Board of Equalization in November 2010.

"Serving as Caucus chairman has been an honor," Runner said. "But the position requires extensive time and energy and involves exceptional multitasking, and right now my energy and focus is on strengthening the integrity of our state's voting process (the Vote Safe Initiative) for the people of California and on winning the Board of Equalization race to serve as a defender of taxpayers."

The Vote Safe ballot initiative planned for November 2010 will require voters to show identification and give the last four digits of their Social Security numbers at the polls.

"This protects your vote and mine from voter fraud," Smith said.

It is unclear who will replace Runner as the chairman of the caucus, Smith said. The Senate Republicans will elect a new caucus leader at a date to be determined, he added.

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