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Orange County

County Should Be United on Budget, Supervisors Say

February 08, 2003|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

More than 100 representatives of law enforcement, cities and local agencies gathered Friday to discuss the dire impacts of the proposed state budget.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors, which could lose $30 million of general-fund money if Gov. Gray Davis' proposed budget is adopted, held the conference Friday in Costa Mesa to discuss presenting a united front to state legislators.

"We need to be proactive, we need to watch out for ourselves and we need to watch out for each other," board Chairman Tom Wilson said. "If legislators see a single message coming out of the County of Orange, I think the legislators will have a better idea how their constituents feel."

To bring the state budget into balance, Davis proposed raising taxes, sharply reducing services and shifting many state responsibilities onto county governments.

Sheriff Michael S. Carona said his department might face nearly $14 million in cuts from the state, reducing training, autopsies for babies who died of sudden infant death syndrome and other programs.

Transportation, city and sewer officials also warned of bleak fiscal futures.

Gary Burton, the county's chief financial officer, again discussed the two problems that make the state budget deficit even more harmful for Orange County -- the debt stemming from the 1994 bankruptcy and the fact that the county is a "donor county," sending more property tax dollars to Sacramento than it receives.

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, who was a county supervisor until he was elected in November, lamented the local officials' position.

"This is crises management in a situation where they don't call the shots," he said, pointing toward the packed meeting room.

He presented two proposals he hopes to pursue in Sacramento: using the Republicans' power to kill a budget proposal to force state officials to reformulate how local government is financed and creating a caucus of legislators who are former local officials.

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