Supervisors to Consider Dramatic Alternatives to Governor’s Budget
By Elizabeth Marcellino, City News Service
County officials said Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget cuts would cut welfare benefits to 37,000 families in Los Angeles County, move 13,550 felons into county jails and shift 30,000 parolees to local supervision.
The Board of Supervisors directed its chief executive officer and staffers to move quickly to propose alternatives — some dramatic — that would better serve Los Angeles County.
Possibilities mentioned included closing some juvenile probation camps in favor of close monitoring of offenders off-site; GPS monitoring of convicts who would otherwise burden county jails and eliminating protections under Proposition 13 for major corporations by creating a split tax roll.
The governor’s budget plan seeks to bridge a $25.4 billion two-year deficit by cutting $12.5 in spending and extending $12 billion in fees and taxes.
County supervisors at Tuesday’s weekly hearing agreed that cuts were necessary and that the state’s predicament is dire.
“Let’s face it, the numbers are the numbers, it’s real, it’s a huge deficit,” Supervisor Gloria Molina said. “If we’re going to be a working partner (with the state), then we’ve got to provide numbers as well,” rather than just criticize the governor’s allocations. She praised Brown for making his intent clear early, saying it was “pretty bold.”
“Spending based on available dollars and not on borrowing is vital to our balanced budget,” Supervisor Michael Antonovich said.
But specifics of the plan came under fire.
Antonovich argued that a proposed 10 percent state salary cut “ought to be all or none,” saying that selective reductions would pit employee against employee.
Antonovich also objected to extending what were billed as temporary taxes and fees. He said the state is already losing too many businesses to Nevada and other states with more attractive tax structures and “as a result we are left with a hole in our budget.”
CEO William Fujioka said the tax extension was far from a slam-dunk, but without it, the county would be in even worse shape.
“It’s going to be a very difficult request to get through the state legislature and the electorate,” Fujioka said.
Fujioka said state budget proposals have cost the county “over a billion dollars already” over the last three years, before providing insights on the impact of the newly proposed cuts.
The proposed $1.5 billion reduction to CalWORKS, the state’s welfare-to-work program, would cut county funding by $450 million and take away benefits for 37,000 county families, Fujioka said. Some percentage of those families would become eligible for the county’s general relief program, which relies solely on county revenues.
A proposed $1.7 billion cut in medical funding would result in a loss of $120 million for the county’s Department of Health Services.
Together with the department’s existing deficit, that would create “some serious problems with our delivery of healthcare here in Los Angeles County,” Fujioka said.
Based on what the CEO said were conservative estimates, a plan to move prisoners to county jails would send 13,550 felons to Los Angeles County, where jails are old and don’t have the staffing needed to manage the wave of new prisoners.
“Nobody could absorb the number of convicts they’re asking us to absorb,” Molina said.
Another new 30,000 parolees would also call Los Angeles County home, based on Fujioka’s estimates. That kind of influx would require 725 new hires.
The supervisors’ comments highlight their concerns that the governor’s plan to “realign” services will leave the county without money needed to fund services they are required by law to provide.
But Molina urged the CEO and his staff to quickly develop a plan to absorb $4 billion in cuts.
“L.A. County is one-third of the entire state and if we are one-third … then we’ve got to come up with our $4 billion,” Molina said.
Disagreeing with Antonovich about corporate tax burdens, she proposed looking at Proposition 13, which caps property taxes, and potentially creating a split tax roll for residents and corporations in order to raise corporate property taxes.
She also proposed closing some probation camps, substituting closer case management for 24-hour supervision.
Antonovich recommended that the governor implement some of the cost-saving measures suggested in the California Performance Review. He supports changes which include: streamlining eligibility for Medi-Cal, CalWORKS and food stamps to save $4 billion over five years; instituting a performance-based budgeting system that would save $3.3 billion; and changing DMV registration to a biennial requirement to save $1.3 billion over the same period.
The CEO is taking a group to meet with the governor’s finance director today and he hopes to bring the county’s legislative delegates down to Los Angeles to help educate them on the impact of the governor’s proposal.
“We need our L.A. County delegation to advocate for us,” Fujioka said.
But first the county needs to agree on where they want to see cuts.
“This state has got to get its fiscal house in order and we’ve got to be part of the solution,” Molina said.Print This Post
January 13, 2011 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.