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Calif. Democrats Unveil Budget Plan To Shift Services To Counties

— State Senate Democrats have unveiled their budget plan to dig California out of its $19 billion hole. Their idea is to shift more responsibility to local governments, but fund it, in part with a tax on oil produced in California.

The Senate Democrats’ plan is their response to Governor Schwarzenegger’s revised budget proposal he unveiled last month. Schwarzenegger has suggested eliminating things like California’s welfare to work program.

Senate Democrats are proposing that locals take on new responsibilities for administering certain welfare and public safety programs.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said their plan would provide tax money, including a new oil tax, to help foot the bill. “We picked things that the state is partially doing, but that the counties are also doing," he said. "And so we’re going to ask the counties to do more, and to ask them to do more, we need to provide them with the resources to carry out those functions.”

The plan would cancel a scheduled cut in the car tax and transfer vehicle license fees to counties. It would also delay corporate tax breaks.

Mike McGowan is a Yolo County Supervisor. He called the Democrats’ plan a step in the right direction. He said local governments are already providing lots of services. But if the state wants them to do more, he said they need to be clearly defined with money to pay for them.

“The list of programs that the county provides is the longest list if any other form of government, from health care, to law and justice, mental health, we do elections, we do tax collection. We do all of that work,” said McGowan.

Aspects of the plan would require Republican votes, but both Governor Schwarzenegger and GOP lawmakers have said they will not support any new taxes.

Republican Senator Bob Dutton is vice chairman of the budget committee. He criticized the plan for doing little to deal with state inefficiencies and relying heavily on what he called questionable revenue sources.

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