California schools, libraries, prisons and disabled services will all be affected — with more to come, Gov. Jerry Brown warns.

By Anthony York and Teresa Watanabe
Los Angeles Times
December 14, 2011

Reporting from Sacramento and Los Angeles — Gov. Jerry Brown announced nearly $1 billion in new state budget cuts, slashing spending on higher education and eliminating funding for free school-bus service but avoiding the deeper reductions to public schools that many had feared.

Services for the disabled, money for public libraries and funding for state prisons will also be pared. Most of the cuts, announced Tuesday, will take effect Jan. 1.

The reductions were built into the budget that Brown and lawmakers approved in June, set to kick in if revenue did not reach the optimistic level they had assumed. Brown warned that more cuts are around the corner, in the spending plan for 2012-13 that he will unveil next month.

“This is not the way we’d like to run California, but we have to live within our means,” Brown said at a Capitol news conference. But he noted that the cuts could have been worse.

An earlier forecast from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office had schools bracing for cuts of more than $1.4 billion. Instead, a burst of corporate and personal income tax receipts that were higher than expected led the administration to raise its cash-flow projections.

Now school budgets will be reduced by about $330 million, including $248 million that pays for buses. Los Angeles schools will bear $38 million of those transportation cuts, and Supt. John Deasy announced Tuesday that the district would file suit to block the state from taking those funds.

“We would have nothing left for transportation,” Deasy said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “The most vulnerable youth in Los Angeles,” he added, would suffer “irreparable harm.”

The governor said schools can pay for bus service out of their reserves, something that representatives from other large districts said they planned to do. Districts are required by federal law to provide transportation for certain special-education and some low-performing students.

Bernie Rhinerson, chief of staff of the San Diego Unified School District, said his district could weather the cuts without reducing its bus program. San Diego pared bus service by about 25% last year, eliminating it for about 4,000 students and adding fees for some.

Other cuts announced Tuesday could also be thwarted by the courts. Among them is a $100-million reduction for workers who care for the sick and elderly in their homes. A federal judge recently issued a temporary order against such cuts in a lawsuit filed preemptively.

Those cuts “would place hundreds of thousands of fragile lives in jeopardy,” said Laphonza Butler, president of the union that represents 180,000 home aides and nursing home workers. “We simply can’t balance our state’s budget on the backs of our most vulnerable residents.”

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