SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed budget for next year includes $10 million for a project that will eventually lead to the replacement of all the track on the Amtrak railroad line between San Diego and Los Angeles and the addition of two new stations, Administration officials disclosed Thursday.
The record $44.3-billion spending plan also sets aside money to improve San Diego's fledgling high-tech freeway traffic management system and includes funds to eradicate a local infestation of the white garden snail.
Also proposed in the governor's budget, which faces six months of revisions and legislative hearings before the new fiscal year begins July 1, is money to help San Diego County officials improve their plans for responding to a major earthquake, and one top county official said the budget appears to have sufficient funds to keep health and social service programs going without cutbacks.
Millions for Higher Education
The budget, as usual, includes a sprinkling of money for state parks projects in the county and millions for university and community college construction projects, the largest of which involves renovations and additions to a patient tower at the UC San Diego Medical Center.
Funding for education programs under the Republican governor's plan would be the highest in California history, measured on a dollars-per-student basis. In all, schools teaching grades kindergarten through 12 are due to receive nearly $1 billion more next year than they are getting in the current budget.
Most education programs will be getting a 4.3% cost-of-living increase, compared to the 2.5% boost they were given this year.
"This certainly looks like a more realistic budget than a year ago," said Thomas Payzant, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. "The interest and attention to education in this budget is a good, positive sign."
The governor's proposed $10-million allocation for Amtrak improvements would be matched by an identical amount of federal and local funds. The money would go toward a five-year plan to replace the aging track between San Diego and Los Angeles, much of which was laid in the 1940s.
Arthur Lloyd, a spokesman for Amtrak, said the improvements are expected to cut about 15 minutes off the time it now takes to travel between the two cities. Although the project is supposed to include a new station in North San Diego County and one in Los Angeles County, the money in this year's budget will not go for that purpose.
San Diego is due to get a share of $15.7-million allocated for new freeway traffic management systems, an idea that flourished during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and has since spread to San Diego and San Francisco.
Gene Berthelson, a California Department of Transportation spokesman, said San Diego's portion will likely be spent on additional freeway ramp meters and closed-circuit surveillance cameras, through which Caltrans workers will monitor the freeways for problems and more quickly dispatch maintenance trucks to remove obstacles.
Shaking Out Earthquake Funds
Deukmejian's budget includes $171,000 for San Diego and Imperial counties to prepare for a major earthquake. The governor had blue-penciled that money out of a bill he signed last year, saying he would prefer to include the funds in the regular budget process.
"We've been pushing this for two years now, and now we have the funds allocated to allow the staff to generate some plans for the border areas," said John Sweeten, director of intergovernmental relations for the county. Sweeten said it is possible that Mexican government officials will be included in such planning.
Sweeten said the county was also pleased by the governor's decision to allocate $228,000 for eradication of the white garden snail, which has infested parts of Mission Hills, Lakeside, Santee, Oceanside and Encanto.
Sweeten also said that the Administration apparently intends to use a method the county has recommended to distribute federal funds for counties that provide health and social services to newly legalized aliens. Most of that money will be allocated in grants to counties based on the number of legalized aliens they have in their jurisdictions, as opposed to the amount of money they were already spending for such services to other citizens.
No Cutbacks Anticipated
Overall, the budget seems to provide enough funding to allow the county to continue its present level of health and social services, Sweeten said.
"We would not anticipate any cutbacks in programs in the health and welfare areas," he said. "We still have to have our experts go over the budget with a fine-toothed comb, but it appears we will not be looking at any cutbacks in those programs."