Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

County officials cautiously optimistic about budget plans

FAIRFIELD – Reaction among local officials Thursday to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $97.6 billion proposed state budget was upbeat, but cautious.

Solano County Health and Social Services Director Patrick Duterte in recent years has talked about how state budgets threatened to “hammer” services for the needy in his department. For example, in 2010, the state faced a $20 billion deficit and large health and social services cuts loomed.

This year, the governor’s proposals left him more optimistic.

“I don’t see a huge hammer,” Duterte said. “I see improving trends. Things were so bad that anything going up is better. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it certainly is going in the right direction.”

County Superintendent of Schools Jay Speck was also cautiously upbeat.

“I am pleased that it appears the governor has followed through on his commitment to improve K-12 funding after the passage of Proposition 30,” Speck said in a press release.

But Brown also made proposals to change the way that schools are funded, making it difficult to understand the full impact pending further study, Speck said. While Speck said he supports simplifying school funding and local decision-making, he added that this must be done in a thoughtful manner so that the impacts to local students are understood.

Speck also said he’s concerned that Brown didn’t address the adequacy of present funding going to the K-12 system.

“Simply reallocating an already inadequate amount of funding will not meet the long-term needs of California for a well-educated workforce,” Speck said.

In social services, among the good news is an increase in in-home supportive service funding, Duterte said.

In-home supportive services provides workers to help the elderly and those with disabilities remain in their homes. In recent years, state  budgets called for reducing hours provided to recipients. This year, Brown proposes spending $1.8 billion statewide in general fund money for the program, a 4.9 percent increase over the present budget.

Child care has been hammered pretty hard in recent years, Duterte said. Brown’s proposed budget calls for convening a stakeholders group to assess the child care structure that provides aid to low-income families to help members work.

“I think it’s good news we’re going to finally have the conversation to see what we want to do with our children and child care in California,” Duterte said.

Counties and the state are tightly bound together, given that counties carry out many state programs. Solano County officials in recent years have often expressed concern that the state would try to solve its own budget problems at the expense of counties.

Solano County spokesman Steve Pierce on Thursday had no detailed statements on the effects Brown’s proposals would have on the county, given that county officials had just seen them. Brown’s proposed budget has not only financial implications to study, but also policy implications, he said.

Pierce pointed to the issue of federal health care reform and a budget proposal to assess how much funding spent by counties should be redirected to repay for state health care costs. In addition, state  Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley said Thursday that health care reform will fundamentally change the state/county relationship.

“That certainly is a red flag,” Pierce said.

Daily Republic staff

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