State budget slashes local funding

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Local government leaders throughout Southern California say the governor and state legislators are balancing the state’s budget on the backs of cities and counties. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on their concern that under the budget deal announced Monday night, municipalities would lose billions of dollars.

In city halls and county government buildings across California, local leaders denounced the budget deal. Don Knabe is chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Don Knabe: "It’s just really frustrating because these second- and third-round cuts are going to be catastrophic to not only to Los Angeles County because we're big, but the smaller counties. I don't know what they're going to do."

Knabe, a Republican, says the budget deal seeks to shift billions of dollars from local to state government. He says local leaders throughout the state face difficult decisions in the coming weeks and months.

Knabe: "The tough decisions are going to be the social service programs and health care. But particularly social service. Our welfare case load is up 20 percent. Food stamps up 18 percent. Many of these are first-time users. And those cuts are going to be dramatic."

Under the budget deal, the governor and legislature reportedly would seek more than $500 million in cuts and savings in the state’s CalWORKS welfare program and more than $200 million in the Health Family Program. Bill Fujioka is LA County’s Chief Executive Officer.

Bill Fujioka: “Last year, we sustained a $50 million cut. The cut this year will be on top of last year’s $50 million, which will have a huge impact on a program that’s already teetering.”

Frank Stoltze: What are some of those programs?

Fujioka: “It would be for programs that support individuals that are trying to find employment to get off of the welfare rolls. It would be everything from unemployment services to child care.”

Fujioka’s also worried about expected cuts in the county’s disease prevention budget.

Fujioka: “Cuts to our public health program will put the public health in jeopardy because as we cut our surveillance programs that maybe our ability to detect TB or to deal with this new flu virus is diminished.”

Fujioka says these are the worst cuts he’s seen in three decades of government service.

Fujioka and Knabe are particularly frustrated by one part of the state budget deal. It calls for shifting local property tax revenues from community redevelopment projects to the state. That could cost LA County more than $25 billion over the next 40 years.

Knabe says the governor and Democratic leaders agreed to include language that says if counties successfully challenge the plan in court, the state would automatically be allowed to borrow money from cities and counties, and seize transportation funds.

Knabe: "They know that it’s not good public policy. They know that we will probably win in a lawsuit. And then they put the poison pill in so they can do what they want to do anyway. You know, it’s game playing at its best."

Local government leaders are also worried about a plan to reduce the state’s prison population by 27,000 inmates. No county sends more people to state prison than Los Angeles. That means it would bear the brunt of inmates who return home, says Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Steve Whitmore: "Unfortunately all the studies have shown that 70 to 80 percent of those people – it’s an enormously high number – will be re-arrested. And they will come back into our jails."

State legislators still need to approve the budget deal. They’re expected to vote later this week.