Budget would shift burden to local government

LCF officials say city operations would be largely unaffected if Brown's plan is approved.

January 13, 2011|By Joe Piasecki,

Calls for billions in cuts to programs and services and for continuing temporary tax hikes aren't the only reasons Gov. Jerry Brown's state budget proposal was turning heads Monday.

Brown's plan also calls for a reorganization of the state bureaucracy that would shift control of some state-managed public-safety, child-welfare and mental-health programs over to county officials in exchange for direct access to the tax revenues that would fund them.

Dubbed "realignment," the idea — a throwback to the days when Brown previously served as governor, before revenue collection and spending was centralized in the wake of Proposition 13 — hinges on the expectation that local governments will better know how to spend constituents' tax dollars and would administer that spending more efficiently.


While La Cañada Flintridge officials say it appears the city would remain largely unaffected by the budget's belt-tightening and reorganization measures, Los Angeles County leaders have expressed concern about taking on increased responsibilities in tough economic times.

But Jean Ross, director of the nonpartisan California Budget Project think tank, said she was "conceptually supportive" of returning control of, and responsibility for, certain state functions to local government.

"The devil is in the details, and we haven't seen the details. I have concerns, and when we see the details, I'm sure I'll have more concerns. But at least in the past, this kind of transaction has been designed to allow communities some ability to tailor how they deliver services to meet the needs of the local community," Ross said.

In 1991, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson successfully moved some mental-health services into local control, Ross said.

Under Brown's plan, responsibility for the state's $1.6 billion role in foster-care and child-welfare services would transfer to county authority next year, as would a $1.5 billion cost of dealing with low-level criminal offenders and parole violators in county jails rather than state prisons.

These and other changes totaling $5.9 billion would be funded by extending vehicle license-fee and sales-tax increases and channeling that money directly to counties.

Costs and benefits

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), a member of the Senate's Budget Committee, said Brown's plan to move low-level state prisoners into county jails would likely provoke the greatest concern at the local level.

La Canada Valley Sun Articles La Canada Valley Sun Articles