SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed $36.7-billion state budget, made public last week, failed to include funds for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to buy parkland.
Deukmejian's exclusion of conservancy acquisition funds could set the stage for another struggle between the agency's supporters and the Deukmejian Administration.
Since it was established by the Legislature in 1979, the conservancy has spent about $37.5 million to buy 7,100 acres of open space in the foothills bordering the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles.
Fight for Its Life
Last year, the conservancy faced an uphill fight to persuade the governor to sign legislation extending for three years the life of the agency, which had been set to go out of business this year.
The agency also was given about $19 million in state park bond funds and tideland oil revenues to acquire land last year. This year, however, the Administration has no tidelands funds for the conservancy, and the agency has spent all of its bond funds, said Kirk Stewart, a state Finance Department analyst.
Stewart said tideland funds are being targeted for hospitals and prisons, not open-space acquisition. At the same time, the Finance Department proposes that the conservancy spend its own funds, obtained by buying and selling land, for its day-to-day operations, rather than dip into state general funds for these purposes.
Joseph Edmiston, the conservancy's executive director, said he was "extremely disappointed" by the Administration's position. "It's an effort to drastically curtail our operations," Edmiston said.
Edmiston said he submitted a $5-million budget. He said he hoped to obtain at least $450,000 for the second phase of a land purchase in Cherry Canyon in the La Canada Flintridge area and $1 million to develop a park in Temescal Canyon near Pacific Palisades.
Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) said he was frustrated by the governor's annual stinginess with the conservancy budget. He said it is particularly infuriating because in the last two years Deukmejian has given the conservancy more money in the spring after claiming in January that there was no money to spare.
"Hopefully, this is just a bad guy-good guy routine and the governor will ride in on a white horse later to provide the funds for the conservancy to continue to do its good work," Davis said.
Davis said he plans to initiate a letter-writing campaign in Los Angeles, as he did last year, to persuade the governor to give the conservancy more money.
Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) called the governor's action unfortunate and warned that, if the money is not spent now to buy mountain-access land, "we'll deeply regret it in five years when all the canyons are developed."
Another project that came up short in the budget announcement was Mission College. As expected, the governor did not include any money for the construction of a permanent campus because a committee of the board of governors of the California Community Colleges in December did not recommend funds for construction.
Deukmejian's spending blueprint contained little new money for other local projects. However, it included $13.5-million for two building projects at California State University, Northridge, about $11 million for improvements at Camarillo State Hospital and $2 million for the Hungry Valley off-road vehicle park in Gorman, a pet project of Sen. Robbins.