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O.C. Projects Fare Well Under Clinton Budget

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The spending plan released by President Clinton on Thursday contains commitments to some of Orange County’s top priorities, including the Santa Ana River flood-control project, the international space station, rail and highway improvements and illegal immigration controls.

Clinton’s $1.7-trillion budget--a mixture of middle-class tax cuts and more dollars for education--effectively starts the race for budget dollars on Capitol Hill and within the administration.

Exactly how Orange County fared in the administration’s spending plan was still a big question mark late Thursday for Jim McConnell, Orange County’s lobbyist in Washington.

However, after thumbing through key passages in the 10-pound document, McConnell said he was satisfied that the White House had recommended $52.9 million in next year’s budget for the Santa Ana River flood-control plan.

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The decade-old project, which is designed to protect against a catastrophic flood, will eventually cost at least $1.3 billion in local and federal dollars.

At the Orange County Transportation Authority, spokeswoman Ileana Lopez said officials had not seen the budget numbers and were uncertain how the upcoming competition for transit dollars would play out.

Among the Orange County transit projects listed in the budget were: a continuing credit guarantee for Orange County toll roads, should they need to draw out some cash during the first five years of operation; $3 million for a “transitway” still to be selected; and $1.5 million for the Los Angeles-to-San Diego commuter rail project.

While the budget outline did not seem to specifically set aside the $10 million that Santa Ana Mayor Miguel A. Pulido Jr. is seeking for the Bristol Street widening project, he was not discouraged.

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“This is the first draft of a series of budgets that will be negotiated. But I’m glad to see there’s some mention for the county right off the start,” Pulido said.

Pulido, a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority board, said that local commuters will benefit from the rail and highway improvements scheduled for the Alameda Corridor in Los Angeles, which has been promised a $400-million federal loan.

Local officials also are hoping to get funding from the proposed reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.

Earlier this week, Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, announced that California House members plan to work together to pick the state’s projects to be funded under this major transportation package.

In addition to the flood-control and transportation plans, the administration has pledged to fully fund the scheduled closures of military bases, including the Tustin and El Toro Marine air stations.

However, Clinton’s defense budget was criticized by Rep. Ron Packard (R-Oceanside) because it cuts the construction and family housing budget by $1.6 billion, 16% lower than the current funding level. Packard chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees military construction.

“I have toured military bases where the people who put their lives on the line for our security come home to houses where roofs leak, doors are falling off their hinges and their appliances don’t work. This is simply unconscionable,” Packard said.

Concerning illegal immigration, the budget contains a provision negotiated last year by Packard to fund the San Clemente and Temecula border checkpoints only if they are open on a 24-hour basis.

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The Clinton budget funds 500 new immigration agents, officers and support staff, and expands an employment verification process that was first tested in Santa Ana.

The international space station, part of which is being constructed at the McDonnell Douglas plant in Huntington Beach, also is recommended for the maximum amount allowable in 1998, $2.1 billion.

Its funding is expected to receive criticism because Russia, one of the project’s partners, has fallen behind on its financial commitment.


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