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Comments cost Lodi’s state senator, Tom Berryhill, chairmanship of ag committee

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Posted: Friday, January 14, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:30 am, Fri Jan 14, 2011.

Displaying the kind of bare-knuckle politicking he isn't known for, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, yanked the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee from a Republican lawmaker who told reporters this week that the state budget is Democrats' problem.

Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, told reporters after GOP senators met with Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday that "no one person in there is ready to support extra taxes."

Berryhill represents the Lodi area and much of Stanislaus County.

Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature, and voters last fall approved a ballot measure allowing for the passage of the state budget with only a majority vote in each house.

Now, Berryhill said, the budget is "really not our problem. The Democrats own this."

Legislators still need a two-thirds vote to approve new taxes.

Steinberg, who as Senate leader controls committee assignments, said in a letter to members of the Rules Committee that he would strip Berryhill of the agriculture panel's chairmanship and replace him with Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres.

"Each member of the California State Senate represents nearly one million people, and we have a duty, regardless of party or philosophy, to actively engage in the serious work necessary to address the challenges confronting California," Steinberg wrote.

"I have spoken to Sen. Berryhill about this matter," Steinberg said. "Mr. Berryhill is a man of integrity and substance, and I am confident he will so engage in the months ahead."

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