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UPDATE 1-California governor declares fiscal emergency

* Jerry Brown pressures lawmakers on $25.4 bln budget gap

* Follows similar declaration last month by Schwarzenegger (Updates with declaration, adds details from statement)

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 20 (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of fiscal emergency on Thursday for the government of the most populous U.S. state to press lawmakers to tackle its $25.4 billion budget gap.

Democrat Brown’s declaration follows a similar one made last month by his predecessor, former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Democrats who control the legislature declined to act on Schwarzenegger’s declaration, saying they would instead wait to work on budget matters with Brown, who served two terms as California’s governor in the 1970s and 1980s.

Brown was sworn in to his third term early this month and has presented lawmakers with a plan to balance the state’s books with $12.5 billion in spending cuts and revenue from tax extensions that voters must first approve.

Brown has said he wants lawmakers to act on his plan by March. His fiscal emergency declaration is meant to underscore that target, a spokeswoman said.

Brown’s declaration, which is largely procedural, says it affirms Schwarzenegger’s December declaration, giving lawmakers 45 days to address the state’s fiscal troubles.

The 72-year-old governor also wants the legislature to back a ballot measure for a special election in June that would ask voters to extend tax increases expiring this year to help fill the state budget’s shortfall.

Brown needs a handful of Republican votes to put the measure to voters. Republican leaders in the legislature have said they doubt those votes will come.

By contrast, the state senate president pro tem, Darrell Steinberg, told Reuters on Thursday he is backing Brown’s budget plan and that he would press other lawmakers to do so as well: “I think the Brown framework is the right framework ... We intend to meet the March deadline.” (Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Gary Hill)