Democrats’ New Budget Plan Would Shift Some Programs to Counties
On Monday, Senate Democrats released a budget plan that would shift control of about $4.3 billion in health, welfare and public safety programs from the state to counties, the Ventura County Star reports (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 6/21).
Under the plan, counties would be responsible for:
- Providing drug treatment services to beneficiaries of Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program;
- Managing 25% of grants for CalWORKS, the state's welfare program;
- Overseeing CalWORKS child care (Yamamura, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/21);
- Supervising juvenile parolees; and
- Incarcerating low-level criminal offenders.
New Taxes To Fund Shift
Senate Democrats proposed funding the plan with tax levies, including a new extraction tax on oil drilled from California wells. The plan also would raise revenue by making permanent a temporary increase in vehicle license fees.
The revenue from the taxes would go to local governments. In addition, counties would be entitled to keep an estimated $500 million in savings that could become available after the federal government begins covering the costs of indigent health care in 2014 (Ventura County Star, 6/21).
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the proposal would reduce the state's $19.1 billion budget deficit, but he did not provide specifics about how much the plan would save (Goldmacher, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 6/21).
Aaron McLear, spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), said the governor is open to the Democrats' proposal but believes taxes would not encourage private sector growth (Lin, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 6/21). Republican lawmakers said they would consider shifting some programs to counties but argued against using new taxes ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/21).
State government "has largely become a pass-through entity" that raises money and channels it to counties, which in turn deliver public services, Steinberg writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. He continues, "This convolution requires multiple levels of administration for the same programs," which can create confusion for residents and stifle innovation.
Steinberg writes, "State government should shrink, and restructuring will allow that." He concludes that such restructuring "is necessary to divert us from our current path of decimating education and public safety and refusing a helping hand to the poor" (Steinberg, Los Angeles Times, 6/22).
On Monday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the budget plan. The segment includes comments from:
- Steinberg; and
- Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan (O'Mara, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 6/21).