Massive state budget crisis hits home |

Massive state budget crisis hits home

Hang on. The state may be in for a bumpy ride.

From roads and environmental projects to health care and emergency services, many of California’s services failed to escape the bleak picture of planned budget cuts.

A month after the election, Gov. Gray Davis issued the plan to alert the Legislature and department heads in the state, cities and counties that they could be working with $10.2 billion less in the next 18 months. This deficit is double the projection of a week ago.

The governor called the Legislature into a special session today to work on the budget reductions.

“This proposal reflects tough decisions made to deal with a tough situation,” Davis said in a statement. “Reductions will be made in every state agency, nearly every department, nearly every program in all areas of state spending. In times like these, everyone must be part of the solution.”

The total shortfall projected through June 2004 has climbed to $30 billion.

Joining the millions of Web site hits Friday, El Dorado County Chief Administrative Officer Tom Soike said he needs time to decipher the 30-page document before reacting.

“Once we know the impact of El Dorado County, then we can put together a financial strategy for the board to adopt for this year,” Soike said. “Then, we can set goals for next year.”

Projected cuts include: $1.8 billion from transportation; $1.7 billion from education in K-community colleges; $1.3 million from the Office of Emergency Services; $38 million in housing and community development programs; $1.6 million from the California Conservation Corps; $2.2 million from Fish and Game; $5.5 million from the Department of Forestry; $21.8 million from the Department of Rehabilitation; $201.8 million from the Department of Health Services, including Medi-Cal cuts; $24.8 million from the Department of Social Services; $4.8 million from the Department of Mental Health.

The prospect of losing more funds from an area that’s a usual target didn’t sit well with county mental health Director Kathleen Burne. She employs 20 people in Tahoe serving the mentally ill.

“It’s scary. It’s bad this year, but it should be worse next year, and it doesn’t appear to be looking up after that,” Burne said.

High medical insurance costs and power costs, as well as reduced vehicle license fees and state investments in a flailing stock market, have exacerbated a fiscal blueprint that represented a turnabout from the massive surplus facing the state just a few short years ago.

“The issue is, if they’ve already given out the money, they can’t easily get it back,” Burne said. “But they don’t tend to give all the money up front.”

When Davis released his last plan for budget cuts, many city and county governments were resting their hopes on the Legislature.

El Dorado County Social Services Director Tom Sullivan said 20 percent of his programs, like child welfare and adoption services, were placed on the chopping block, but lawmakers put the money back in general fund coffers.

Although the California Highway Patrol receives special funding, the state agency has already started to cut back on services, spokesman Steve Koeler said from Sacramento.

The CHP has trimmed its equipment budget in half and has restricted overtime hours and travel. It has also cut back on non-specific training in and out of the state.

The governor issued an executive order to freeze spending, identify general fund savings and reduce expenditures. He plans to submit a balanced budget plan for the 2003-04 fiscal year by Jan. 10.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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