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Globe Newspaper Group » Alameda County, Local News, Politics » ALAMEDA COUNTY RESPONDS TO STATE BUDGET PLAN

ALAMEDA COUNTY RESPONDS TO STATE BUDGET PLAN

ALAMEDA COUNTY RESPONDS TO STATE BUDGET PLAN

Alameda County officials said Wednesday they are deeply concerned about the State budget plan passed by the Legislature, particularly about a strategy to shift more responsibility to counties for housing inmates and providing other services – even though funding to accomplish these changes is far from certain.

County officials also say that additional cuts to social services programs that serve the community – beyond deep cuts already enacted this year – are a very real possibility given that revenue projections contained in the new State budget plan may be overly optimistic.

“For months we have been hearing promises of long-term solutions to the State’s financial problems,’’ said Alameda County Administrator Susan S. Muranishi. “While this budget is a step in the right direction, without any Republican support for tax extensions Governor Brown and the Democrats were hamstrung in their attempts to present a more viable long-term solution.  As a result, a good portion of the Legislature’s budget plan is based on strong revenue growth in the coming year as well as short-term fixes, and an all-too-familiar strategy to pass the tough decisions onto local government.  If revenues don’t materialize or courts rule against some of the proposals, the severity of cuts will impact many of the neediest people in Alameda County.”

The Legislature’s plan, which was passed without any Republican support, calls for an $86 billion spending package that closes a large budget shortfall by using more spending cuts, greater-than-expected tax revenues and some new fees that likely will be challenged in court.  It does not include any of the Governor’s proposed tax extensions, nor does it contain any constitutional protections to counties who would be responsible for providing services handed over to them by the State.

The spending plan would trigger deeper cuts to social services, K-12 education, corrections and health services programs if the higher-than-anticipated revenue projections don’t materialize.  Governor Brown is expected to sign off on the budget plan soon.

The plan would also shift $1.7 billion away from local redevelopment agencies, a move that would effectively end agencies that have been vital to maintaining and replacing key infrastructure in Alameda County and other communities.

Alameda County residents have already been hit hard by the $11.2 billion in statewide cuts authorized by the Governor as part of the first round of budget cuts for FY 2011-12.  Most of the reductions impact health and human services programs that serve low-income families, children and the elderly. The Governor and Democrats were hoping that an extension of taxes would mitigate the need for further program cuts, but they did not receive the necessary Republican support to put the extensions on the ballot.

The State budget plan was approved just four days after Alameda County adopted a $2.5 billion Final Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-2012 that calls for eliminating more than 100 County jobs while reducing some key services to close a $137.9 million funding gap. The Final Budget marked the third consecutive year that Alameda County has grappled with a triple-digit shortfall, as the County continues to feel the effects of the economic downturn and shifts in spending from local to State government that over the past two decades have cost Alameda County $4.3 billion.

Over the past several months, County officials have worked diligently on statewide efforts to protect the interests of local government, as Governor Brown has discussed plans to shift responsibility for corrections, law enforcement and other programs from the State to local government.  These proposals for “realignment’’ have been touted by the Governor as central to plans to eliminate Sacramento’s structural financial deficit – but have prompted demands by Alameda County and other local governments for guaranteed funding sources so that program shifts do not further drain local resources.

State officials have provided repeated assurances that any “realignment’’ would be coupled with adequate funding.  Yet the budget plan approved on Tuesday calls for shifting responsibility for housing thousands of criminal offenders and for some health and human services programs to local government, while long-term funding to carry out this change apparently will be sought through a ballot measure in November that is not guaranteed to succeed.

“The cuts already enacted by the State this year have wounded many people struggling to make it in our community,’’ said Supervisor Keith Carson, who chairs Alameda County’s Budget Workgroup.  “This latest budget plan pours salt on those wounds by giving local governments the responsibility for a greater number of offenders without providing the necessary funding or time to develop an infrastructure for re-entry and rehabilitative programs that help to prevent recidivism.  Without a sufficient level of funding and constitutional protections, the State is just passing the buck to local governments rather than doing what is necessary to get its own fiscal house in order.’’

Written by Globe Newspapers

Filed under: Alameda County, Local News, Politics

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