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State Budget Favors S.D. Universities, Pilot HMO Project

January 11, 1986|KENNETH F. BUNTING | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — San Diego County higher education institutions, park lovers and rail travelers fared well in the $36.7-billion budget proposal unveiled Friday by Gov. George Deukmejian.

But county government officials, hoping for more state money for alcohol and drug abuse programs and a shift of court operational costs to the state, will no doubt find themselves somewhat disappointed.

Making education the top priority in his fourth state spending plan, Deukmejian proposed a budget that included more than $18 million in improvement projects for UC San Diego and $11.3 million for San Diego State University.

Pet Projects

Officials of neither institution got everything they wanted, but were pleased that the governor supported some pet projects, including a proposed Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD.

The budget proposal includes $480,000 to plan the new school and $17.6 million to plan and construct an 80,000-square-foot building for the anthropology, history and political science departments.

UCSD Chancellor Richard C. Atkinson said the new school will be a "great asset."

He added that Deukmejian's support "underscores the fact that Pacific Basin studies are not only important to UCSD and San Diego, but also to California's business communities and to the state's economy."

Atkinson said he was disappointed, however, that a central library expansion was not funded.

Under the governor's proposal, SDSU would get $7.1 million for a new classroom, faculty office and student services building, plus money for major remodeling or expansion projects for its Life Science and Physical Science buildings, and the women's gymnasium.

A requested inflation factor for utilities, library books and telephone costs was denied in Deukmejian's no-new-tax budget.

Amtrak Improvements

Also, $10.6 million was proposed to improve Amtrak's San Diego-Los Angeles rail line, which carries 1.2 million passengers annually. State transportation officials hope some planned track improvements will increase train speed and the line's capacity.

The proposal would also set aside $280,000 to add 22 acres to Palomar Mountain State Park and $1.7 million for parking and access improvements and new restrooms at the Torrey Pines State Beach.

The experimental "Expanded Choice" program, under which 165,000 poor people in San Diego will have to go to prepaid health maintenance organizations (HMOs) for medical care, is set to start Aug. 1.

But a similar pilot project in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley was scrapped because of poor planning and unexpectely high start-up costs.

About $2.7 million was included in Deukmejian's budget to operate the pilot project the first year--but only in San Diego County.

Legislators and San Diego County officials said they had not yet had time to study the thick budget document. But generally, local government officials around the state were pleased that the governor's proposal contained cost-of-living increases for most state programs.

However, San Diego County officials, who last year pushed an unsuccessful bill that would bring more money for alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, will probably be disappointed that the governor's proposed budget does not attempt to make up for years in which San Diego and other counties in Southern California have been funded below the statewide average.

Officials in San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties say they are being shortchanged by a funding formula devised two decades ago. This year, Orange County is sponsoring a bill to correct the supposed inequities, and San Diego County officials are expected to support it.

County officials will also be disappointed that Deukmejian included no money in his budget to shift trial court operation costs from counties to the state.

Last year, Deukmejian signed into law a bill to make the funding shift, but expressed reservations about its costs and said it should be coupled with reforms to make the courts more cost-efficient. The budget proposal sets aside no money for implementing the cost shift, but it listed for the first time the efficiency reforms Deukmejian would like to see legislators consider.

They include smaller juries in civil cases, sending more cases to mandatory arbitration, an "administrative adjudication" process to cut down on traffic offense trials and new rules allowing attorneys fewer automatic challenges jurors in both criminal and civil cases.

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