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Budget Cuts and the Poor

July 13, 1994

According to The Times, California's new budget will reduce a poor, aged or disabled couple's yearly grant by $312 a year, a needy blind person will lose $156 a year, while a mother of two children receiving AFDC will lose $168 a year (July 5). In addition, university students, renters, and Medi-Cal patients will all (once again) be sacrificed to the State of California's official deity, "the God of No New Taxes." Even then, the state will have to borrow $4 billion to maintain what is left of itself (i.e., prisons).

This budget reaches a new low in both its viciousness and in its irresponsibility. Gov. Pete Wilson and the state Legislature have in effect stolen from the blind and disabled to finance the lifestyle of their rich and affluent friends. Of course, they argue (as always) that imposing any new taxes on the wealthy would only hurt the economy and hamper the ever-illusive economic recovery.

Am I the only one, or does anyone else in this great penal colony of ours ever notice that it is "only" by taxing the affluent that the economy is stifled so? Taxing the poor and the working classes, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable. Why does it hurt the economy any more to take $312 a year from a wealthy couple than it does when we take that same amount from a poor blind couple? Either way $312 is removed from the general economy. The only difference is that the poor, the blind and the disabled lack influence in Sacramento.

SEAN P. WORSEY

Long Beach

* It is obvious in the budget battle where our governor's and legislators' interests lie:

Allow renters tax credits to die completely; allow higher income tax brackets to expire; cut grants to children and the aged, disabled and blind; increase expenditures for prisons; increase fees for community colleges and state universities, and ignore tax loopholes that may have long outlasted their purpose.

LEE PODOLAK

Orange

* Over the past three years, Los Angeles County has faced floods, fires, riots, earthquakes, defense downsizing, and a sluggish economy. Now add to this litany an unfair state budget process.

Last year, local governments accounted for 35% of the state budget solution. Counties accounted for 61% of the net reductions of local governments. And Los Angeles County, which accounted for only 36% of county revenue statewide, accounted for almost 50% of the reduction to counties. Counties, especially L.A. County, contributed more than their fair share to last year's state budget solution.

This year, the budget solution again targets counties, especially Los Angeles County. Out of $715 million in cuts to local governments, $605 million or 85% is from counties. And of the cuts to counties, $362 million or 60% comes directly from Los Angeles County.

It's time to ask where does this path lead us? How is Los Angeles County to recover from the quake, the economic downturn, and address the social and health problems of our urban population without adequately funded schools, libraries, hospitals, and other public facilities and programs?

The governor, the Legislature and most particularly the Los Angeles County delegation need to address this issue fairly and squarely. Los Angeles County and other units of local government must, at least, be given the tools they need to maintain a sense of control over local revenues and services. Los Angeles County has proposed legislation enabling counties to levy a tax on liquor by the drink. The Legislature should pass this measure and the governor should sign it.

Los Angeles County has also proposed a series of measures to speed up state and federal reimbursement of Medi-Cal claims, keep libraries open by granting libraries benefit assessment authority, and the phasing of payments to the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund to cover past revenue shortfalls. These also deserve review and support by the Legislature and the governor.

More fundamentally, California's system of state and local finance is in need of reform. Under the current structure, the state and units of local government are doomed to stumble on from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis.

GARY N. CONLEY, President

Economic Development Corp.

Los Angeles

* Your recent article on the budget accord quotes state Sen. Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward) as saying, "How many times can you run into a wall?" (referring to the governor's steadfast opposition to tax increases). "The wall wins" (July 2). Lockyer and his colleagues in the Legislature were wise in realizing that Wilson's resolve was as strong as a brick wall. You only have to refer to the 1991 budget battle, when Wilson tried the compromise route, only to have the Legislature renege on promises to reform the budgetary process. Since that time, Wilson rightfully has refused to budge on the budget.

It takes a steadfast hand to gain the respect of the Legislature. Clearly, Wilson may not be liked by Kathleen Brown, Lockyer and their Democratic colleagues, but he has earned their respect. It is refreshing to have a leader who understands that respect is far more important than winning a popularity contest.

HOLLY A. STROM

Los Angeles

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