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Governor’s Budget Digs Deep Into Calaveras County Pocketbook

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger´s budget, announced last week, could hack Calaveras County´s budget by $936,945, nearly 10 percent.

The governor proposed a 15 percent transfer from the county´s property tax revenues to balance the state´s budget. The transfer gives the state $1.3 billion from counties and cities, which will replace money taken from the state education budget.

“The governor´s plan has the potential to cripple California´s local governments,” said Steve Szalay, executive director of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC).

A group of county administrative officers will meet in Sacramento today to discuss what the governor´s budget means for counties, Tom Mitchell, Calaveras County administrative officer, said.

The proposed budget includes $4 billion in refund payments to counties for the Vehicle License Fee backfill.

Still, according to a CSAC press release, many of the governor´s proposals would have negative impacts on counties. Health and human service programs will be hardest hit with $2.5 billion to be cut statewide.

Proposition 42 revenues, which pay for the counties´ local street and road rehabilitation, would be suspended under the proposed budget. Counties would loose an estimated $1.1 billion.

It´s still not clear exactly how these cuts will affect Calaveras County.

In Sacramento Wednesday, two legislators who represent Calaveras County in the capital gave the governor´s plans a cautious thumbs up. “It´s hard not to find a little good in it,” said Republican Dave Cogdill, 25th district assemblyman, adding, however, that “short-term impacts are going to be substantial.”

For each of the past two years, Cogdill introduced unsuccessful legislation to prohibit state raids on county property taxes, a practice that began with the Pete Wilson administration. He still opposes Schwarzenegger´s plan to take another $1.3 billion from counties on top of $6 billion already confiscated.

Cogdill also worries that voters will reject Schwarzenegger´s multi-billion dollar bond measure on the March ballot, which will lead to more severe cuts in state spending, which could have a backlash on legislators, perhaps even on the structure of the Legislature itself.

Still, he´s an advocate of the governor´s plans. “For us,” he said, “it´s about trying to get the California economy back on its feet.”

State Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, mirrors Cogdill´s views. “The fundamental components of it are sound,” he said. “The governor starts with the premise, rightly so, that the problem we have is we spend beyond our means.”

Schwarzenegger´s plan eliminates many of the categorical programs the state´s schools have offered, replacing them with cash that the schools themselves can decide how to use. This will eliminate needless grant writing and the bureaucracy that it creates, Oller said.

The state method of disbursing money also means Calaveras County often comes out “on the short end of the stick,” Oller said. Money often goes to both counties and cities based on population. Since Calaveras County has only one incorporated city, it gets less money than it might get if more of its commuities were incorporated, he said.

Cogdill cautioned against hopes that the state´s economic ills can be cured quickly. He pointed out that state policies prohibit wholesaled layoffs and that years of attrition lie ahead to reduce the size of the state workforce.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com