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Gov. Jerry Brown faces off with counties on California budget

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown has promised to be blunt when tackling the state's problems, and he had a straightforward message for county officials on Wednesday.

"Give me $300 million and we'll call it a day," he said.

Brown is trying to reduce the amount of money the state sends to counties to fund healthcare for uninsured and poor Californians. He says the counties won't need the funds because more people will be covered by the state and private insurance under the federal healthcare overhaul.

However, county officials have resisted Brown's plan. They say they'll still need the money because up to 4 million Californians will still be uninsured, even after the healthcare changes are fully implemented.

"There isn't $300 million" to give the state, said Matt Cate, executive director of the California State Assn. of Counties. "That's the problem."

Cate said counties are willing to give up some money eventually, but the state should wait and see how the healthcare overhaul works out before making any changes to funding formulas.

In future years, Brown's plan would reduce healthcare funding to counties even more, reaching $1.3 billion in the fiscal year that begins in July 2015. The funding would be reduced by requiring counties to pay for other social services like child care.

The plan is part of the budget being negotiated right now with lawmakers. Brown said he would be meeting with legislative leaders on Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers are pushing their own budget plan, which relies on a sunnier economic forecast and is almost $2 billion larger than Brown's $96.4-billion proposal.

"I'm not willing to bet on capital gains and Wall Street," Brown said. "We've been disappointed too often."

He wouldn't say whether he would veto the budget if the Legislature approves one larger than he wants.

"We're in an exploratory, quasi-collaborative mode," he said. "I don't think edicts or pronunciamentos would help that process."

ALSO:

Brown unveils cautious budget for deficit-free state

Analyst disputes Brown's budget outlook as too glum

California Assembly, Senate outline divergent budget plans

Twitter: @chrismegerian

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