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Anger toward lawmakers’ budget deal grows

July 23, 2009

Outrage related to the state’s tentative budget solution persisted Thursday among representatives from police, fire and public worker associations, who, along with local government officials, denounced the plan to close California’s deficit with drastic cuts to public services.

Among the most dangerous of the cost-saving proposals, representatives said, is a “state takeaway” of redevelopment and transportation money and an effort to borrow property tax revenues that will combine to cost local governments around $4 billion.

The losses will be significant enough to prevent extensive road maintenance, delay job-creating construction projects and cut firefighting and police staffs to dangerously low levels, they said.

The resulting slimmer public safety staffs will have slower response times, said Carroll Wills, a spokesman for California Professional Firefighters, a labor union represents 30,000 emergency responders.

“Those situations where seconds count — we will lose minutes and that’s a dangerous thought for public safety,” Wills said.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League was also critical of the plan, which calls for the early release of 27,000 inmates from state prisons to help cut the expenses of California’s Department of Corrections.

That move could put dangerous criminals back onto the streets, League President Paul Weber said in a statement.

“The fact is that California officials that are jeopardizing public safety, as the overall costs and risks far outweigh any initial savings to the Department of Corrections budget,” Weber said.

Livid county and city officials have fired threats toward state representatives.

Los Angeles County supervisors are preparing to sue California if the Legislature approves the budget deal and Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird vowed to put local lawmakers on the spot if they supported the plan.

“If they vote on this package, I will put signs on our streets identifying them as responsible for the cracks and the potholes that are going to appear as a result of their irresponsible action,” Starbird said.

Glendale is expecting to lose about $19.5 million because of the cuts, which will dramatically affect its ability to serve residents, Starbird said.

“Anybody who votes for this package should be pilloried at the local level,” he said “This budget is irresponsible.”

Service Employees International Union’s California council president, Kristy Sermersheim, argued that the budget would impact more than the 700,000 employees her organization represents.

“Approximately 80,000 seniors and people with disabilities will be put at risk of leaving their homes for institutions,” she said in a statement. “Nearly half a million children will lose healthcare. The deal will eliminate tens of thousands of jobs, making our terrible economy even worse.”

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