LOS ANGELES — Democrats gained a two-thirds majority in the California Senate following Tuesday's election, bringing them close to the ability to pass tax increases without the need for Republican votes.
However, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown quickly cautioned that he already has pledged to take any further tax hikes to voters, as he did with the temporary tax increases that voters approved on Tuesday.
It is the first time since 1965 that Democrats controlled a Senate supermajority, and the only time since California voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, raising the legislative vote threshold to pass tax increases to two-thirds.
Democrats will control at least 27 seats in the 40-member Senate and are closing in on the two-thirds margin in the Assembly as well.
Not only did voters increase Democrats' dominance, they also approved Brown's tax increases with passage of Proposition 30. The combination is enough to reverse what have been constant cuts in services to stop budget bleeding and creates "an opportunity to begin a new and better California," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
"Enough is enough," Steinberg said in a telephone interview. "It's time to start anew and to live within our means but at the same time invest in the cornerstone of our future and of our economy, and that's education."
Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, conceded that Democrats now will have unchallenged control in the Senate, but said that with that comes a "tremendous responsibility" to govern wisely. He pledged to work with the majority to help create new jobs in California.
One Senate race remained too close to call.
Termed-out Democratic Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani trailed Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill in the Central Valley's 5th Senate District, which includes parts of Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
However, even if she loses, Democrats will have the 27 votes they need to approve tax increases, pass emergency legislation, override governors' vetoes and change house rules while ignoring Republicans.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said he was confident that Democrats would gain the 54 seats they need for a supermajority in his chamber as well.
However, several races were too close to call and Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, was waiting to see if her party would be sidelined in the lower chamber.
To gain a two-thirds margin, Democrats needed challenger Sharon Quirk-Silva to oust incumbent Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby in north central Orange County's 65th Assembly District.
They also needed Democrat Rudy Salas to prevail over Republican Pedro Rios in the Central Valley's 32nd Assembly District, which includes parts of Kern and Kings counties.
Democrats had slim leads in both races.
The last time either party gained a supermajority in either chamber was in the 1976 election, when Democrats won a two-thirds margin in the Assembly.
If Democrats win two-thirds majorities in both chambers, it would be the first time since 1933 that one party held simultaneous supermajorities.
But Brown said at a Sacramento news conference that it is his role to make sure legislative members of his own party do not overindulge. He said he will ensure that California does not spend beyond its means, pledging to keep state spending on a steady and sustainable course.