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L.A. County official pushes back against Brown's budget cuts

L.A. County's chief executive, William T Fujioka, says proposed cuts to welfare and prisons will be an excessive burden on the county's limited resources.

January 12, 2011|By Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times
  • William T Fujioka in 2009.
William T Fujioka in 2009. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles County officials pushed back Tuesday against Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget, saying they want to meet with the local delegation to Sacramento to call attention to the pain that the cuts will cause close to home.

William T Fujioka, the county's chief executive, said local leaders are concerned about whether state officials "truly understand the impact" of the proposed cuts to welfare, healthcare, prisons and other services.

"All I see in this proposed budget are numbers," he said. "We can tell them about the … families in every single one of their districts who lose that benefit," he said of CalWorks, which provides cash assistance and child care for the poor.

The governor's proposal calls for a $450-million reduction in welfare benefits for Los Angeles County recipients, according to Fujioka's analysis. Instead of five years of benefits, recipients would get four years, and see a 13% cut in the grants' monthly value.

The budget proposal also eliminates welfare benefits for families who refuse work assignments yet still receive grants for their children, which according to Fujioka's analysis would affect 37,000 local families.

That rollback would bring California in line with other states that already require parents to accept work assignments in order to receive benefits. Parents who refuse work would still be eligible for small general-relief grants — about $221 a person per month — wholly funded by the county's general fund.

Fujioka also complained that the governor's proposal would require the transfer of about 13,550 felons from state prisons to county jails, causing the county to assume an estimated $450.5 million in additional program responsibilities.

"Our jails are old," Fujioka said. "We have infrastructure issues with the jails. We don't have the staff, we don't have the resources."

Additionally, the county's Probation Department would be required to accept supervision of 30,000 or more violent parolees, including sexual predators at high risk of recidivism, Fujioka said. The department would also have to accept a significant influx of juvenile offenders currently housed in state facilities.

"Our camps," Fujioka said, "are not made for the hard-core felon probationers and yet we'd be having that type of responsibility."

But Supervisor Gloria Molina cautioned Fujioka and other staffers that the state's difficult budget situation was real and required shared sacrifice.

"You can't just go in there and say, 'Not us,' " she said.

"If we sit here as Los Angeles County and all we do is show them and demonstrate to them why you can't do it, then I don't think we are a good partner," Molina said. "I think we need to start looking at each of these numbers and figure out exactly how we're going to absorb the cut."

Meanwhile, Los Angeles city officials opposed the governor's effort to eliminate redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones, but said the governor's proposal did not appear to significantly worsen their already dire budget picture. Gerry Miller, the city's chief legislative analyst, said the direct impact appeared to be "relatively minor."

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