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Community Commentary: Governor's plan raises questions

February 17, 2011|By Tom Harman

A budget proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to shift some state functions to local governments has been receiving a lot of attention. The governor's complex realignment efforts have received cautious support from some quarters but, as a former Huntington Beach City Councilman, I am aware of the potential problems such a change could have on local finances. I have been closely following the issue, and my staff here in Sacramento has been attending briefings on some of the key elements of the governor's proposal. It seems that there are more questions than answers at this point.

While I am generally supportive of returning control to local entities, we must ensure there is a secure and steady source of funding — that is key. There is some question as to whether that is the case with the governor's proposal. In addition, for realignment to work, key funding and programmatic decisions should also be made at the local level. This is how we ensure that local needs are met in the most cost effective and sensible way. (For details on the proposals, visit the Senate Republican Fiscal Office's analysis of the budget, http://cssrc.us/pubs/110113_BudgetAnalysis.pdf).

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A major drawback to the governor's proposal is his reliance on a voter-approved extension of temporary taxes. First, there is no guarantee the tax increases will get to the ballot, nor is there any guarantee that they will pass. Currently well in excess of 60% of voters polled oppose more sales, personal income or Vehicle License Fee taxes. Many unanswered questions remain regarding realignment: How will be funding be allocated? How will any plan ensure that we get the expected cost savings from the transfer?

I am encouraged to hear the governor and his staff ask key questions such as which programs are really working to make our communities safer and healthier; which programs would be better run at the local level; and most importantly, can we better utilize our scarce resources and achieve better results by eliminating programs that don't work. The shrinking of the massive government bureaucracy is the most encouraging possibility of all.

TOM HARMAN represents the 35th state senatorial district, which includes Laguna Beach.

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