Counties Foresee Devastation in Revenue-Sharing Cuts

Times Staff Writer

Officials from several California counties complained Tuesday that health, welfare and other services they provide would be "devastated" by proposed Reagan Administration budget cuts that would chop revenues to counties in the state by an estimated $500 million in the next fiscal year.

About 30 members of the County Supervisors Assn. of California, here in conjunction with a nationwide meeting of county officials, met with state congressmen from both parties and urged them to oppose several Administration budget proposals, including a plan to scrap the federal revenue-sharing program.

"This is going to be a tough year for us, the toughest since the New Deal" predicted Larry Naake, executive director of the supervisors group.

Proposition 13

Leaders of the group claimed that the proposed cuts would have a more serious effect in California than any other state because of Proposition 13 prohibitions against tax hikes as well as regulations that require counties to assume responsibility for health and welfare programs that elsewhere are controlled by state or city governments.

"We're in a situation right now because of Proposition 13 that we can't raise any funds," explained Leon Williams, chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. "We're entirely a victim of federal and state revenue sources. When money gets cut down, services get cut down."

The supervisors claimed that most of their revenues are earmarked for programs mandated by state and federal governments and cannot be cut, rendering the $253 million that flows into California counties each year under the revenue-sharing program the most important source for funding discretionary programs such as the hiring of more police officers or operating public medical facilities.

Health Services

For example, they pointed out, Los Angeles County targeted its entire $80-million revenue-sharing grant in 1984 for health services. The grant amounted to nearly a quarter of all county spending for health care.

In a statement, the group said that county governments would be willing to absorb their "fair share" of spending reductions but called on the Administration to agree to heavier cuts from the defense budget than the President apparently is willing to consider.

"The proposed federal budget would rearrange our nation's priorities," the statement said. "The federal government must recognize that an integral part of our nation's defense is achieved through programs and services for our citizens at home."

One of the congressmen with whom the supervisors met, Los Angeles Democrat Augustus F. Hawkins, said that county governments are going to have to adjust to operating with lower revenues and suggested that the cuts probably would be popular with most taxpayers. "The public perception of the problem is quite different from what I hear in these meetings," Hawkins said. "The public thinks these programs caused the deficit."

Welfare Programs

In addition to urging the continuation of revenue sharing, the supervisors also urged restoration of proposed cuts or freezes in funding for several welfare programs that California counties administer, including Medi-Cal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children and special assistance grants to Indochinese refugees.

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