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Supervisors criticize state's schemes

County leaders claim negotiations center around saddling local governments with massive deficit

Posted: July 20, 2009 11:00 p.m.
Updated: July 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.
LOS ANGELES - Charging state leaders are scheming to raid local governments' coffers, two Los Angeles County supervisors on Monday chastised legislators and the governor for using what they called short-sighted and blunt methods to close California's $26.3 billion budget gap.

"Instead of going under, they're going to force cities and counties to go under," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "It stinks, it smells, it is bad public policy."

The criticism comes as weeks of budget negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders were expected to wrap up in the next few days, resulting in a formal framework for the long-awaited budget.

Yaroslavsky and Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, citing anonymous "inside sources" privy to the talks, said the state's tentative plans would take an additional $237 million in cuts to Los Angeles County. These include a $109 million cut this year to the county's share of gasoline tax revenues along with slashes to several health-related programs, the supervisors said.

A governor's spokeswoman would not confirm the details, deferring questions about the talks to the department of finance.

H.D. Palmer, a deputy director for the agency, declined to comment about any of the potential cuts, saying legislators were still meeting in the governor's office and no final decisions have been made.

Officials for the legislative leaders directly involved in the negotiations were unreachable for comment Monday afternoon.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said he had heard all of these actions could be on the table, but he would be wary about supporting them.

The former Santa Clarita city councilman and mayor said his experience in local government makes him hesitant to saddle cities and counties with the state's deficit.

He added that he has yet to see any formal proposals.

"I do think it is judicious to have every option on the table at least to look at, then make decisions from there," he said.

The supervisors mentioned other potential measures, including the suspension of Prop. 1A of 2004 and time limit extensions of redevelopment projects, which could cost the county hundreds of millions of dollars immediately - and billions over the next several years.

Antonovich, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, called the plan "highway robbery" on the part of a fiscally irresponsible state.

He repeated points he had sent in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this year, saying the Legislature should repeal term limits, become part-time and eliminate all of the state's unfunded mandates.

Yaroslavsky threw in a barb that could have been out of the governor's own repertoire: "They're not even being man enough to say we're going to take your money, and this is how we're going to do it."


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