By Kevin Yamamura
Published: Monday, Jan. 3, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 3, 2011 – 7:06 am
The broad set of budget cuts that Gov.-elect Jerry Brown will propose in the coming days would touch nearly all Californians, eliminating local redevelopment agencies, shrinking social service benefits, shuttering parks and reducing library hours, according to a source familiar with his budget proposal.
Brown, to be sworn in this morning, wants to slash virtually every state-funded program to help balance California’s massive deficit, in many cases resurrecting cuts sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger but rejected by lawmakers. Brown would restrict Medi-Cal access, divert low-level offenders to county jails and cut deeply into California State University and the University of California.
The Democrat is counting on lawmakers to approve the cuts to encourage voters to also provide revenue. A June ballot measure would extend higher tax rates on income, vehicles and sales set to expire this year, as well as eliminate a new corporate tax benefit. The money from the vehicle and sales tax extensions would be sent to local governments, which would take on some functions the state performs now.
Brown also wants to take money from voter-approved accounts that fund early childhood development and mental health care, a plan similar to one rejected by voters in 2009.
Brown’s widescale cuts seem designed to hit services that permeate every part of Californians’ lives. The reductions to state parks and libraries, for instance, are minuscule against the backdrop of a deficit greater than $25 billion over the next 18 months. But park and library closures would surely draw the attention of middle-class families.
So would cuts to the state’s two university systems, which Brown will pursue one year after Schwarzenegger singled out the state’s higher-education system for protection.
He also would cut his own office expenses by a quarter.
The Democratic governor’s budget relies largely on permanent cuts with an eye toward reducing a long-term budget problem that the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has predicted will hover around $20 billion annually without any changes.
In a major reduction, Brown would wipe out hundreds of local redevelopment agencies, which use property taxes to spur projects in blighted areas. State leaders in 2009-10 took $1.7 billion from redevelopment agencies, though voters in November approved a ballot initiative, Proposition 22, that presumably blocks such transfers in the future.
Brown wants to eliminate redevelopment agencies altogether; it is not clear whether that would require voter approval. He intends to use the money to offset state budget costs for one year and then give the money to counties and schools thereafter.
“Frankly, nothing would surprise me since it seems like we’ve been everyone’s target,” said John Shirey, executive director of the California Redevelopment Association. “Naturally, we would fight that, and we think the voters were very clear in their passage of Proposition 22 … that local money needs to stay local and the state needs to find its own solutions to state problems.”
Brown aides did not respond to a request for comment Sunday evening.
Brown also wants to eliminate “enterprise zones,” through which the state provides employee tax credits to businesses. At a Brown budget forum last month, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor questioned whether those zones do much to spur economic activity.
The Democratic governor does not plan to protect the six state worker bargaining units that did not reach agreements with Schwarzenegger; instead, his budget will rely on reductions similar to those other unions have approved.
He will propose Medi-Cal savings by requiring patients to provide co-payments for services, limiting doctor visits and reducing rates paid to health providers. In Healthy Families, which provides subsidized care for low-income children, he wants participants to pay more in premiums and co-payments while eliminating vision care.
“These would be shocking cuts if we hadn’t seen them before, but we have seen them before,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. “This is what’s left to cut outside of the wholesale dismantling of core programs. These are bad cuts that will impact millions of Californians.”
Brown plans to pursue other safety-net cuts that Schwarzenegger wanted.
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