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VENTURA COUNTY

Rival Welfare Plan Considered

Politics: Supervisors may join other counties in supporting alternative legislation that would give them more control than Gov. Wilson's proposal.

March 25, 1997|CARLOS V. LOZANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Unhappy with Gov. Pete Wilson's welfare reform plan on grounds that it gives too much control to the state, Ventura County supervisors are considering joining other counties in endorsing a rival legislative proposal that would put them back in the driver's seat.

The alternative legislation would give counties more flexibility to restructure their own welfare-to-work systems to best suit their needs, said Helen Reburn, deputy director of the county's Public Social Services Agency.

Specifically, the legislation would give counties more control over welfare eligibility rules, time limits for assistance and child-care services.

"It's a much more humane plan," Reburn said. "It would give more discretion to counties to determine in what situations we would provide benefits. It gives Ventura County everything we need to go forward."

The alternative plan was developed by the California State Assn. of Counties and has been introduced by state Sen. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).

Thompson's legislation in many ways resembles Ventura County's own welfare reform proposal, which was shot down by Wilson last year after winning unanimous support from a then-Republican-controlled Legislature.

One major similarity is that Thompson's bill would extend the time for new welfare recipients to get a job from one year to two years before losing their benefits, similar to federal reform legislation. The governor's plan calls for a one-year limit.

The newly proposed legislation would also give the Board of Supervisors control over child-care services provided to welfare recipients. Under Wilson's plan, the state Department of Education would be given control of these services.

In other areas, the bill calls for the state to provide some form of assistance to legal residents who are indigent, blind or disabled and in danger of losing their federal Supplemental Security Income benefits. The legislation also requires the state to assist legal immigrants in obtaining their citizenship.

"This gives the counties the authority and the responsibility to make [welfare reform] work," Supervisor John K. Flynn said of Thompson's legislation. "It doesn't put the serious restrictions on us that the governor's plan would."

County officials said they expect Thompson's bill to be supported by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. But they acknowledged that Wilson could once again veto the proposed legislation, as he did with Ventura County's bill last year.

"The chances of getting through the Legislature are very good," Reburn said. "But what the governor is willing to do in terms of negotiation I don't know."

Ginny Camarillo, an official in the county's chief administrative office, said there is a good chance Wilson would support the bill simply because it has the strong backing of California counties.

"The feeling is that the counties are speaking with a singular voice" with this legislation, Camarillo said. "So I think it will be better received and more effective."

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