County Must Work With State on Budget Crisis, Molina Says

Supervisor discusses county’s fiscal state and other issues at East Los Angeles Rotary meeting.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

While the County of Los Angeles has not seen the devastating budget shortfalls and cuts to services as other counties and cities in the state, county residents should expect major cuts in the upcoming fiscal year, Supervisor Gloria Molina told attendees at a recent meeting of the East Los Angeles Rotary.

“In the last, almost four years, during… with all the economic shortfalls, we have not cut services or laid off staff,” said Molina.

“Unfortunately, this year is going to be tougher than ever for all of us,” she said.

L.A. County represents one third of the state and with a $24 billion budget hole, the county must be part of the solution to the state’s budget deficit, Molina said.

“We are trying to work in concert with the governor. One of the things he is asking us to do is embrace a series of cuts—calling them ‘realignment,’ but basically sending to us the responsibility to carry out these services,” she said.

Molina warned that while the county may have to swallow this “bittersweet pill,” it wants to make sure that the state doesn’t go back to borrowing money, expanding programs that cannot be sustained or “giving out goodies to special interests.”

Later this year, several temporary tax increases will expire unless voters approve an extension. Without the tax extension, Molina said $2.6 billion more would be cut from the courts and corrections; $1.2 billion from health and social services, and $1.8 million from municipal governments. She said there could be additional tuition hikes at state colleges.

“So we need to work together… [to] get the message out that these taxes are critical, absolutely critical,” she said in support of putting the tax increase on the ballot.

Molina said she is hopeful that “La Linea de Oro,” Metro’s Gold Line, will help improve East LA’s economy, but said the county needs to create a good regional transportation system that includes the San Gabriel region. She said the county has the money, but Metro is leaning toward projects for the westside.

“We need to become involved with the type of decisions that they make… I’m very worried that those projects are going on in the westside, and if we don’t watch the dollars, by the time it’s our turn on the eastside, there might not be enough money,” she said.

The supervisor said that while she has remained neutral on the issue of East LA cityhood, parties on both sides of the issue have accused her of swaying toward their opponents.

Molina said much of unincorporated East LA’s industrial tax base was “gobbled up” years ago by cities like Commerce, Montebello and Monterey Park. She said a fiscal analysis study underway will give residents a chance to see the current costs for services to determine if the area can sustain itself. After that, they can decide if they want to vote to become a city.

Molina cautioned that unless residents get civically engaged, they could end up like some of the southeast cities that have struggled with corruption and financial insolvency.

East Los Angeles Residents Association President Ben Cardenas told Molina that East Los Angeles would never be like the southeast cities because residents there are more engaged.

The results of the fiscal analysis should be made public by June, Cardenas told EGP.

East LA resident and business owner Eddie Torres asked Molina if she would analyze the data once it becomes available, so residents can feel confident about whether the same level of services can be sustained at the current price.

“What am I getting now, what am I paying? What will I get then and what will I be paying? [That will be the] discussion as we move forward,” Molina responded, noting there are always accusations that the information is slanted.

Molina said what she worries most about is “outsiders bringing in lots of money, like in Bell…” to unduly influence the outcome of the election. “I will keep an eye on that… there are lots of predators dressed in business like attire not working in the best interest of the community,” like in Bell, Maywood, and all over the San Gabriel Valley, she said.

Andy Carasco, public affairs manager for The Gas Company, asked Molina her thoughts on AB36, a bill authored by Assembly Speaker John Perez that would dis-incorporate the city of Vernon.

“I have said time and time again that Vernon is not a city; not a democratic city. It is basically a company town.” She said voters are compromised because they are employed by the city and their votes are monitored.

“I’m hopeful it will get passed, then there will probably be a lawsuit,” Molina said. If Vernon is dis-incorporated, she hopes it will go back to the “county as an unincorporated area… through the LAFCO procees.”

“…If that happens, we are not going to put it up for grabs for anybody.”

The City of Los Angeles has already expressed interest in annexing Vernon, which has a substantial tax base. Molina said no one sees Vernon as a liability.

Molina suggested East LA—if it becomes a city—could annex Vernon if it is dis-incorporated. She acknowledged that businesses have threatened to leave if Vernon is dis-incorporated, but said she believes a city can have democracy and strong industry, citing Commerce as an example.

Cardenas told EGP that right now ELARA is not interested in speculating about annexing Vernon, but is instead focused on cityhood.

Pan American Bank filmed Molina’s speech; the video can be viewed at http://livestre.am/E1uI

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March 17, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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