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State passes budget

Local assemblyman predicts budget won’t last past the fall

Posted: July 24, 2009 9:59 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2009 4:30 a.m.
 

Lawmakers on Friday approved a complex package of spending cuts, accounting maneuvers and raids on local government coffers to fill California’s budget deficit, despite protests and promises of lawsuits from Los Angeles County.

At least one state lawmaker said he is in the county’s corner.

“All in all this was another ugly budget created as a result of several years of overspending,” said state Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley. “I vigorously opposed and voted against the bills to rob local governments who already made tough budget cuts, and I expect them to prevail in their lawsuits against the state.”

“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for county Supervisor Michael Antonovich. Supervisors voted Tuesday to sue the state if it tried to grab county money.

“(The county) has practiced fiscally conservative policies for the past 15 years; now the state is punishing us by raiding our budget,” Bell said.

The Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger-sponsored bill leverages $2 billion from local governments’ property-tax revenue, which under California law must be repaid in three years.

Redevelopment agencies statewide will be hit for $1 billion in tax revenues by the state to help balance the budget.

Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, predicted the spending plan won’t survive past summer, and a continued economic slide will leave California’s lawmakers again short of enough revenue.

“Unfortunately, due to the economy, we will be back by the fall for a special session to make more corrections to the budget,” he said.

The governor is expected to sign the bill next week, more than three weeks into California’s new fiscal year, which began July 1.

State lawmakers didn’t give Schwarzenegger everything on his wish list. Plans to seize gasoline taxes, which pay for local infrastructure, were squashed by Assembly Republicans, Smyth said.

“That was probably the most significant thing we accomplished,” he said. “We negotiated that out completely.”

California lawmakers voted on 31 separate provisions in the budget. While Smyth can’t remember each vote in the marathon session that left him with two hours of sleep during a 36-hour period, the lawmaker said Republicans accomplished plenty of the goals set prior to budget negotiations.

“This budget was the best we could do under the circumstances,” he said. “We reduced spending by $10 billion and reduced the overall size of government. There are also no new taxes.”

The budget agreement includes cuts that will be felt in nearly every California community.

Welfare, health care programs for low-income families and in-home services for the disabled, elderly and frail will be reduced.

Nearly 40,000 people will have their in-home support services terminated.

Schwarzenegger has ordered state workers to take three days off a month without pay, equating to a 14-percent pay cut.

LeeAnn Holmes, 52, of Newhall, has been a sharp critic of any cuts to the disabled since California began slashing its contribution to disability payments for her son, Tim Holmes. News of the cuts hit Holmes hard.

“Unfortunately, everyone has to take a cut, but to take from those who can’t speak up for themselves is depressing,” she said.

Cuts to public schools are expected to force teacher layoffs, more crowded classrooms and scaled-back offerings in art, music and sports.

College students will pay hundreds of dollars more per year in fees, course offerings will shrink and tens of thousands of prospective students will be turned away.

The cuts make sense to Valencia resident Randy Werner, who said spending in the state is out of control.  

“Our social programs are over the top. A beef I have is the state will pay for you to go to junior college for free,” he said. “I don’t think the state should pay for that. If you can’t scrape together $1,000 every six months, maybe you don’t want to be there that badly.”

Aligning the state’s spending with the size of the economy would allow California to grow and realize its potential, Werner said.

“California should be one of the richest states in the country, and we are one of the most broke.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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