The $44.3-billion state budget proposed Thursday by Gov. George Deukmejian may provide some minor relief to harried South Bay commuters through new efforts to speed the flow of traffic on existing freeways and continued work on the long-delayed Century Freeway project.
The record 1988-89 spending plan unveiled at a state Capitol news conference will provide the funding needed for numerous transportation improvements, including an additional $96 million for construction on the Century Freeway from the eastern edge of Los Angeles International Airport to Norwalk and support for building an exclusive car-pool lane on the San Diego Freeway.
The budget package also would provide additional funding to expand the state Department of Transportation's traffic operations center in downtown Los Angeles, which uses closed-circuit television and roadway sensors to monitor traffic flow throughout the metropolitan area.
But in another area that affects people living in the South Bay, the budget does not restore the funding needed to reopen hospital trauma centers that have closed in Los Angeles County, including the Daniel Freeman Center in Inglewood, which fell victim to budget woes last year.
The absence of direct state funds to support the trauma network, which provides hospital emergency room care for critically injured accident and crime victims, is certain to fuel a simmering political battle in the Legislature.
South Bay lawmakers of both political parties expressed concern about the lack of support for trauma centers. One Democratic lawmaker said the closure of trauma centers is "endangering people's lives."
Increase in Student Fees
The governor did recommend increased state efforts to promote international trade, a key component of the local economy. And although he raised funds to support all levels of education, in keeping with a new state law, Deukmejian proposed an increase in students' fees at the University of California and the state college and university system.
California State University, Dominguez Hills students would see their fees rise by $54 annually if the governor's proposal is adopted by the Legislature before the new fiscal year starts July 1. Average fees for full-time students would be $684 annually.
The budget anticipates an increase in enrollment at the Dominguez Hills campus from the equivalent of 5,200 full-time students this year to 5,855 full-time students in 1988-89.
The governor's environmental budget includes funding for protection of endangered species, including the El Segundo blue butterfly.
The governor's transportation budget provides another year of support for construction of the 17-mile-long Century Freeway. The project is expected to cost a total of $1.8 billion to build, not including housing for displaced residents along the route and a planned light rail line in the median of the highway.
Caltrans spokesman Gene Berthelsen said the state also is prepared to support construction of an exclusive car-pool lane along 26 miles of the heavily traveled San Diego Freeway from the Marina Freeway to the Orange County line.
The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission last month approved adding the special lane for cars carrying more than one person.
"Local government gets to make the decision," Berthelsen said. "Our policy is to go along with it."
The car-pool lane project still must be approved by the California Transportation Commission when it updates the state's five-year transportation master plan in June.
Deukmejian's spending package also would provide funds to expand the Caltrans traffic center. The facility uses closed-circuit television and roadway sensors to monitor traffic flow and adjust freeway on-ramp meters throughout the Los Angeles area, including the Harbor and San Diego freeways in the South Bay.
Berthelsen said the state may increase the use of surveillance television cameras and the number of Caltrans response teams assigned to clear accidents in the South Bay.
To help cope with increased freeway congestion and violence, Deukmejian also proposed the addition of 150 California Highway Patrol officers.
Although the budget does not identify where the new officers will be assigned, assistant finance director Lois Wallace said: "It is safe to assume that a major share will go to Los Angeles."
Initial reaction to the Republican governor's spending plan and his State of the State address Tuesday night predictably split along party lines with GOP lawmakers praising the budget and Democrats criticizing it.
Although none of the lawmakers contacted had studied the four-inch-thick budget proposal, Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach) said he had "a positive reaction" to the governor's upbeat speech and his recommended funding increases for education from kindergarten through the university.
Beverly said, however, that lawmakers are going to have to deal with the trauma center issue and he expressed some reservations about using bond issues to pay for additional highway construction projects.
Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne) was sharply critical of Deukmejian's plan to place bond issues before the voters for highway construction and other purposes. "He keeps hitting us for being tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend, when his is borrow, borrow. borrow, spend, spend, spend."
Floyd said he would prefer that Deukmejian "pay-as-you-go" by increasing gasoline taxes to pay for highway projects rather than paying interest on bonds through future state revenues.