If, as Emerson said, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin
of little minds," Gov. Jerry Brown won’t have to worry about hobgoblins.

After weeks of insisting that no way, no how was he ever
going to put a tax extension on the ballot without some support – i.e., votes –
from GOP legislators, the governor said at a Sacramento labor dinner Monday
night that "one way or another" Californians will have a chance to vote on his
proposal for some $14 billion in tax and revenue extensions to balance next
year’s budget.

When reporters
corralled the governor at the dinner
and asked him if that meant he was
willing to go it alone on the ballot measure, Brown gave a classic non-denial
denial, answering instead that he was "not prepared to cease negotiating in
good faith" with Republicans and that while he remains hopeful, "I do recognize
that time is running out."

Pop quiz: Find the word "no" anywhere in that statement.

While there have been suggestions floating around Sacramento
for weeks that Democrats might be able to make an end run around the two-thirds
vote requirement for putting a tax measure on the ballot, that’s been viewed as
the nuclear option, an admission that Brown’s "Come, let us reason together"
offensive has failed.

There’s also the whole question as to whether a "Democrats
only" ballot measure is even legal. That also means a stone-cold guarantee of
an instant legal challenge from anti-tax Republicans, which wouldn’t be much
help for a budget fix the governor needs now.

Add to that a story
in this morning’s Sacramento Bee
suggesting Brown is channeling his inner
Arnie and planning to go to the people with a ballot initiative that would put
his revenue measure on the November 2011 ballot.

Left unsaid is just how money from a November ballot measure
can be used to balance a budget that’s supposed to be signed by the July 1
start of the fiscal year. Especially when, new Field Poll numbers
aside, there’s no guarantee those tax hikes will pass.

The political flip-flop has a long and glorious tradition in
California. It was Ronald Reagan, for example, who after announcing that his
feet were "set in concrete" against income tax withholding, later signed a tax
increase that included the dreaded withholding plan.

"The sound you hear is the concrete cracking around my
feet," Reagan told reporters as he signed the 1971 tax bill.

But Brown’s new-found enthusiasm for alternative ways of
getting his tax plan on the ballot shows just how nervous he is about his vow
to produce an all cuts budget
if he can’t get Republican backing for his
budget plan.

Talking about the need to chop $26 billion from the state’s
already tightly stretched budget is one thing. Finding enough legislative
Democrats with the stomach to back those draconian cuts is another thing

There’s no way Brown can make those types of reductions
without slashing into money now earmarked for K-12 schools, higher education,
labor costs, social services and other programs long supported by Democrats and
their supporters, along with plenty of other Californian voters.

Brown’s a veteran politician. He knows that if he goes ahead
with his threat for an all-cuts budget, Republicans could be the least of his
problems. The prospect of those cuts could spark a revolt from Democrats both
inside and out of Sacramento.

At that dinner Monday, Brown said he was "not even prepared
to contemplate a Plan B." That might be because he doesn’t have a realistic

John Wildermuth is a
longtime writer on California politics.