By Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times
March 1, 2011

Reporting from Sacramento —

Gov. Jerry Brown backed away Monday from a controversial plan to shift responsibility for managing certain prisoners and parolees to local governments.

Administration officials, testifying before the Legislature’s joint budget committee, said Brown scaled back his proposal after law enforcement groups and municipalities loudly condemned his initial plan.

Local officials had said their jails are already overcrowded, and they had too few parole agents to monitor more ex-convicts. Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley had said that the original proposal endangered public safety.

In response, Brown downsized the plan. He stripped dozens of crimes from the list of offenses that would cause an inmate to be housed in local jails rather than state lockups. And he shrank sharply the number of added cases that local parole agents must manage.

“We tried to, in the public safety area, listen to law enforcement and some of the concerns they had,” testified Diane Cummins, a consultant to Brown on local government issues.

Monday’s announcement marked the first major public concession that Brown has made on criticism of his spending plan, which must close a deficit of more than $25 billion.

Ryan Alsop, a spokesman for Los Angeles County’s chief executive’s office, hailed the changes as “a great gesture from the administration.”

“It shows they are willing to listen,” he said.

Brown has set a March 10 deadline for lawmakers to send him a final spending plan. He wants it to include a measure for the ballot so voters can weigh in on an extension of billions of dollars in temporary tax hikes. The compromises announced Monday came as Brown struggles to wrangle votes for his plan in the Legislature.

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