Labor, community defeat L.A. County budget cuts

LOS ANGLES – Led by Service Employees International Union Local 660, the labor movement and the community have defeated proposals for drastic cuts in public services in Los Angeles County.

County CEO David Janssen had estimated a reduction of $459 million in the county budget, resulting in the elimination of 5,000 jobs and sharp curtailments in county services. However, because of numerous phone calls to the governor’s office and the other aspects of Local 660’s “Campaign for Smart Solutions,” most of the funding from property tax revenues has been restored.

Lawrence Hill, an L.A. County Child Support Officer for 25 years, said, “Our efforts have paid off. While we didn’t get everything we needed, we have closed a substantial gap in funding.” Lawrence was one of many Local 660 stewards and activists who wrote letters and lobbied legislators in both Los Angeles and Sacramento to protect the vital services that they provide to families in L.A. County.

Most of the services that are provided by the county are mandated by the state and are dependent on state and federal revenues. In the case of Child Support Services, the State Assembly-Senate conference committee approved a $1.36 million increase in funding. This increase will bring a federal match of $2.72 million, bringing the total of additional funds to $3.08 million.

“I called the governor about the cuts in animal control,” said Javier Gutierrez, an animal control officer. “The governor’s budget proposal would result in the closing of the Carson and Castaic shelters, a significant number of layoffs in our department, and severely reduced services to the public.” Because of Gutierrez’ efforts and those of his fellow workers, none of the cuts were made.

The long-term legislative solution to these continuing budget battles is to pass an increase in the upper income tax brackets. This position has the support of the majority of California residents. When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office he promised to do what the people want. However, now that a majority of Californians are demanding a tax increase on high incomes to eliminate the budget deficit, he is refusing to do so.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.