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How Republican budget cuts would affect California

Under the GOP House proposals, about $1.5 billion in federal funds for California would be trimmed, affecting such things as Pell grants, Head Start, K-12 education and rail projects.

February 20, 2011|By Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times
  • Proposed cuts to Pell grants would affect about one-third of UC undergraduates, or nearly 65,000 students. Above, students at UC Riverside.
Proposed cuts to Pell grants would affect about one-third of UC undergraduates,… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Washington — University of California students would take a nearly $55-million hit from reductions in Pell grants. A $20-million check promised for bringing a rail line closer to the L.A. airport would be taken back. Head Start cuts would eliminate about 14,000 slots for low-income children in California.

Those are among the possible effects on California in the budget-cutting bill approved Saturday by the House's new Republican majority — legislation that would cut about $1.5 billion in federal money going to California, according to one estimate.

Recipients of Uncle Sam's checks, from mayors struggling to keep their budget woes from worsening to agencies that provide such services as job training and Meals on Wheels, were gearing up to take their fight against the cuts to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which has already signaled that it won't pass such extreme reductions. President Obama has threatened to veto it.

If Congress fails to act before a stopgap spending bill expires on March 4, it could lead to a federal government shutdown.

The proposed sweeping cuts reflect the House Republican majority's campaign pledge to reduce red ink in Washington. Democrats said the massive cuts would set back the nation's economic recovery and weaken the safety net for the needy and unemployed.

The UC system, for which federal funding is the single largest source of support for research, would receive nearly $100 million less — just in biomedical research.

"Cuts of this magnitude are unsustainable if California's biomedical research industry is to remain a global leader in research innovation and an economic engine helping to stabilize California's economy," J. Gary Falle, UC associate vice president for government relations, wrote to lawmakers.

The cuts to Pell grants would affect about one-third of UC undergraduates, or nearly 65,000 students, UC officials said.

California would face reductions of at least $125 million for kindergarten through 12th-grade schools under an approximately 16% nationwide cut in education funding, according to watchdog groups.

The National Education Assn. estimated that the cuts would eliminate 13,840 Head Start slots for low-income children and eliminate after-school programs for 26,139 students.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials were already working to enlist the help of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in fighting a spending cut that would set back efforts to speed construction of a rail line from the Crenshaw district to a station near Los Angeles International Airport. At risk is a $20-million grant, but the money is being used to leverage a $546-million loan to advance the project.

Boxer, saying the transportation project would generate thousands of jobs, called the cuts "ideology trumping common sense."

Los Angeles Harbor also would lose $16 million it has sought for a rail project designed to reduce truck traffic in and out of the port.

The bill would even cut $15 million from the Presidio Trust in House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco.

In total, California would receive about $9.8 billion in discretionary spending under the bill, down from about $11.4 billion last year, according to a preliminary analysis by Federal Funds Information for States, which studies how federal decisions affect states.

During their weeklong recess, California Democrats are looking to rally public opposition by showing what the reductions would mean back home.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, citing the city's budget deficit, warned in a letter to lawmakers that cuts in federal aid would "only further exacerbate" the city's situation and hamper recovery efforts.

Among the effects, he said, would be $2 million less for the city to deal with the homeless. His office, in preparing to fight the cuts, was compiling of list of dozens of service providers threatened by the cuts, from Boys & Girls Clubs to job-training centers.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, chairwoman of the California House Democrats, assailed California Republicans in Congress as "countenancing these really very destructive actions against our own state."

But Rep. David Dreier of San Dimas, who heads the California Republicans in Congress, said, "Getting our fiscal house in order will do more to generate job creation and economic growth in California than virtually any of the spending that we have."

Rep. Gary G. Miller, a Republican former mayor of Diamond Bar who fought an effort by President George W. Bush to cut community development block grants, said in an interview outside the House chamber, "The fact is, we're out of money."

richard.simon@latimes.com

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