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$42 Million Proposed for Colleges in Orange County

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes $42 million for construction and equipment at UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, according to the state Department of Finance.

The budget also sets aside $10.2 million for expansion and development of Chino Hills State Park and $3.1 million for the Orange County Caltrans office to oversee planning and construction of the county’s proposed toll roads.

But the governor’s $48-billion spending plan could force cuts in health and social services programs administered by the county at a time when county funds are tight.

“It looks like a mixed bag,” said Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach). “Transportation looks good. The problem is going to be in the county-administered health care programs. It looks as though the counties really took the biggest part of the bite.”

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The “bite,” according to Deukmejian and his staff, will occur mainly because of the passage of Proposition 98, the November ballot initiative requiring that about 42% of the state budget go to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and community colleges.

So despite proposing a budget that is 5.9% larger than the current year’s spending plan, the governor has proposed reductions of $485 million in health and welfare services and the elimination of state funding for family planning.

The cuts--which include eliminating cost-of-living increases for welfare recipients and the blind, aged and disabled, and reducing spending on in-home nursing care for low-income elderly and disabled people--will require cooperation from the Legislature to be implemented. If lawmakers do not go along, Deukmejian said, he would make substantial cuts in local mental health care, services for abused children, nutrition aid for the elderly and local alcohol- and drug-counseling programs.

“It’s sort of, if you don’t like this one, you’ll like that one even less,” said Richard Keefe, director of legislative affairs for Orange County. “It sounds like we would get hit even worse if he went through with the threatened line-item vetoes.”

Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) said he supports many of the governor’s proposals but doubts that they will be well received by his more liberal legislative colleagues. And he said he didn’t see how Deukmejian’s threatened list of cuts fits in with the governor’s promise to be more conciliatory with the Legislature.

“I heard a lot of talk about a kinder, gentler California,” Ferguson said. “But I also heard him say, ‘I’ve got a gun in my pocket, and I’m going to shoot some holes in your favorite programs if you don’t go along.’ ”

The situation was not as bleak for area schools and universities. Schools statewide, including those in Orange County, will be getting roughly an 8% increase, while local colleges and universities are due to receive millions of dollars for construction projects.

The budget allocates $25.4 million to Cal State Fullerton for work on an engineering building, a science building, a general classroom and a faculty office building.

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UC Irvine would get about $16 million for a physical science building, a science library, an engineering building and the first phase of a project to expand the campus roadway system, including construction of a new entrance on the south side of the campus.

Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana would get about $630,000 for work on two new classroom buildings.

Deukmejian’s budget provides $10.2 million to acquire new land for Chino Hills State Park and another $75,000 for the construction of initial park facilities.

The spending plan earmarks another $10 million to improve the roadbed for Amtrak’s San Diegan rail service, which connects Los Angeles to San Diego through Orange County.

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New state Department of Transportation funds would be enough to hire 47 workers to oversee the construction of Orange County’s toll roads, which will be built by a special local agency and handed over to the state upon completion.

Dan Butler, deputy director of the Orange County Caltrans office, said the oversight is needed to ensure that the roads are planned and built to state standards, because the state would be liable for any accidents caused by shoddy design or construction.

Butler said the office already has seven people, including himself, working on the toll roads project full time. The new employees will be mostly engineers, he said, but will also include planners, environmental specialists and a support staff to back them up.


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