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Programs for Kids in Line for Fund Boost

Budget: Less than two months after halting expansion, Davis will propose a major increase. Jobless benefits would be widened too.

January 08, 2002|JULIE TAMAKI and CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis will propose a significant state funding increase for before- and after-school programs--less than two months after halting a $30-million expansion of the programs.

Although the freeze remains in effect, administration officials said the governor's 2002-03 budget proposal this week will include more money for the programs than trimmed out of the current spending plan.

"It's part of the governor's larger commitment to children," said Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio. "There will be a number of programs specifically targeted at children that will be spared the budget scalpel."

The governor also is expected to announce today that he will seek legislation making newly enhanced unemployment benefits retroactive to Sept. 11.

In November, Davis proposed delaying a $29.7-million expansion of programs that offer tutoring services and recreational activities for students before and after classes as part of a larger plan to knock nearly $3 billion off an estimated $12-billion budget deficit.

Administration officials said they did not expect schools would be ready to use the money because the measure authorizing the expansion did not take effect until this month, roughly halfway through the school year.

Assuming lawmakers approve the $29.7-million cut proposed by Davis, California will spend $87 million on after-school programs in the current fiscal year. The frozen spending included $14.85 million for a new before-school program.

Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar), who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee and who wrote the measure enacting the $30-million expansion, welcomed word of Davis' intention to restore the money in 2002-03.

"Many latchkey children are left to fend for themselves and to get themselves to school, but they don't," Cardenas said. "They wind up getting involved in things they shouldn't be doing."

The Davis announcement comes as actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing a ballot measure setting aside $550 million a year for after-school programs.

"Arnold would be thrilled" if Davis expanded the programs, said George Gorton, campaign manager for the After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002.

"These programs bring some stability to these kids' lives," said Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Assn.

Meanwhile, organized labor's campaign to make newly increased unemployment insurance benefits retroactive for California workers who lost their jobs as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks got off to a muddled start.

Top officials of the California Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, called a news conference to announce a bill that would make the payments retroactive, but they refused to disclose the details of the legislation.

Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar), chairman of the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, who will introduce labor's bill, said he was asked by the governor's office not to announce the bill's contents.

Alarcon said he complied because he was told Davis intends to outline the proposal in his State of the State speech tonight. "I've made a commitment to the governor that we'll allow him to make the specific announcements," he said.

The governor signed legislation last year that increased maximum weekly unemployment payments from $230 in 2001 to $330 this year, and to $450 by 2005. The new benefits will apply to jobless workers who filed on Jan. 1 or later, but it did not apply to workers thrown out of a job as a consequence of the terrorist attacks.

When the new benefits law was signed Oct. 1, Davis and others presumed that it would cover California's Sept. 11 jobless as well, approximately 14,000 workers in the tourism industry, including airline crews and hotel employees. It did not.

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