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Political Landscape:

County supervisors approve budget

June 27, 2009

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a balanced budget, but its members cautioned that they would likely be revisiting the spending plan in coming months as state lawmakers continue to squabble over a $24-billion deficit.

The $22.7-billion plan represents a $494-million cut that lopped off more than 1,700 positions, most of them vacant, avoiding mass layoffs or unpaid work furloughs.

But county officials expect more reductions from the state and anticipate a weekly effort to react to those cuts, along with a final push in September if legislators complete their work by then.

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Supervisors were reacting both to state cuts and dropping revenue, and have already asked departments to make cuts of 7% or more. Further funding reductions of 2% are planned to be in place in order react to state reductions.

Unresolved spending proposals include an effort to reform health and welfare services, which could result in the closure of one or more health centers.

Also unresolved as of this week is a proposed cut of $25 million to the county Sheriff’s Department budget that could affect La Crescenta and La Cañada Flintridge, which contracts with the county for public safety services. A renewal of the county’s contract with smaller cities like La Cañada for those services was taken off the board agenda last week, with no comment on any possible changes. Supervisor Michael Antonovich pressed for early consideration of where the sheriff’s cuts would come in order to meet the $25-million shortfall.

Antonovich also objected to planned cuts in the county pool program and other possible losses in recreation funding.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told county executives to try to avoid cutting programs with high public impact in the new round of 2% cuts, with supervisors wary of another battle with special-interest groups over the summer.

Adjusting for a busier summer than normal would still be an adjustment, board members said.

Chairman Don Knabe said he was surprised to learn he would be absent on an August date set to revisit the welfare issue.

“Am I going to be on vacation?” he asked.

The supervisors also voted to support a call to do away with the two-thirds rule for state budgets, a constitutional provision that has come under scrutiny for causing the political morass in Sacramento. The vote was 3 to 2, with Democrats Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas voting yes and Republicans Antonovich and Knabe no. The board is officially nonpartisan.

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