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Supervisors Say Gann Initiative Would Be Costly

April 23, 1986|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times County Bureau Chief

When Orange County needs more doctors to administer to the poor, it signs contracts with physicians. When it needs a temporary clerk, a private firm supplies one.

In the fiscal year that ended last July 1, the county spent $171 million on contracts for everything from architectural and engineering studies to janitorial services and weed pickers, according to a county report.

But a proposed voter initiative planned for the November ballot by anti-tax crusader Paul Gann could play havoc with county-contracting procedures--and also cost millions of dollars in salaries for new public employees who would have to do work that is now being contracted out, supervisors warned Tuesday.

In a nutshell, the proposed Gann initiative would limit the salaries of public employees and the amount that local governments could spend on contractors.

Some Pay Cuts

The measure would limit the governor's salary to $80,000 per year and freeze pay for most state, city and county employees at a maximum of 80% of the governor's salary, or $64,000. If it passed, the measure would require at least 113 Orange County government employees to take pay cuts, according to a study released last week by the county administrative office.

Supervisor Bruce Nestande Tuesday characterized Gann's proposal as an attempt to "beat up on public officials." But he said his main quarrel was with limiting contracts, a move that Nestande said would require tax increases to pay for new county employees.

'The few dollars they're going to save in salaries compared to what is going to be lost is dreadful," Nestande said.

Supervisor Harriett Wieder said: "The intent (of the Gann initiative) is commendable--to reduce the cost of government--but is the target the right one?"

Limits on Contractors

Gann's proposal would bar local governments from paying a contractor more than $75 per hour--or $64,000 per year--and would limit any contract to two years.

"A four-month review of contracts before our own Board of Supervisors revealed that over 50% of the contracts . . . were over one or more of the newly proposed limits," the administrative office report said.

Imposing limits on contracts and salaries would mean "the quality of public management and public services would be significantly reduced," the report concluded.

Nestande pointed out that the county has in recent years tried to give more work to private firms, rather than increase the number of county staffers. He requested a detailed analysis of how the proposed contracting limits would affect the county. Meanwhile, Supervisor Ralph B. Clark ordered monthly reports to the supervisors on the progress of the Gann initiative.

Ted Costa, a Gann assistant, said last week that backers of the initiative had filed 946,000 signatures with the secretary of state's office, far more than the 630,136 valid signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot. He added that sponsors expected no trouble in having it certified for presentation to the voters.

Costa said the measure was needed "to curb the runaway expenses that we've been having the last couple of years."

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