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Davis’ Cuts Carve Into Republicans’ Favorite Projects

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In paring $1 billion from a spending plan that approaches $100 billion, Gov. Gray Davis’ cuts fell hardest on Republicans--especially those who voted against the budget.

Huntington Beach, the hometown of Assembly Republican Leader Scott Baugh, got an especially close shave.

Gone is $350,000 for a dock there, $400,000 for a beach maintenance facility and $300,000 to replace a railing at Huntington Beach State Park.

“It was made very clear to members of our [Republican] caucus by the Davis administration,” Baugh said Friday, “that if you voted yes on the budget, your special projects would be given favorable consideration. If you voted no, they would not be given favorable consideration.”

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All governors link budget votes to “pork” requests. The Davis administration went out of its way to emphasize the connection--so much that at least one Republican was considering introducing a bill that would make such ties illegal.

“I think it has been expressed that those members that are instrumental in getting a budget to his desk will do well,” Davis spokeswoman Hilary McLean said last month, before the budget vote.

With a $12.8-billion surplus, pork spending will reach new heights in 2000-01. Legislators included at least $300 million for their special projects. But that’s only part of it; money is tucked throughout the budget, in funding for schools, universities, health care, prisons and museums, especially museums that Davis favors.

There is, for instance, a $3-million boost for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance on the Westside, for an exhibit featuring comedian Billy Crystal. Davis included funding for the project, “Finding Our Families . . . Finding Ourselves,” in his revised budget proposal in May.

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The design concept for the exhibit, which will relay stories of people whose families, including Crystal’s, came to the United States as immigrants, was prepared by Walt Disney Imagineering.

“The flip remark that someone has made that this is a Billy Crystal museum is absurd,” said Cliff Berg, a lobbyist representing the museum. “The museum is about all of us. It’s about immigration, discrimination, and that’s what the exhibit is about.”

The Simon Wiesenthal museum is one of dozens of special projects funded by the spending plan in the Democrat-dominated Los Angeles area. There’s $88 million to restore stretches of the Los Angeles River, $32 million to acquire park land in Baldwin Hills and $40 million to add Lower Topanga Canyon to Topanga State Park.

But some Democrats also saw their projects shrink or disappear. Davis slashed $742,000 from Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante’s budget. The bulk of it came out of Bustamante’s Commission for Economic Development. Davis had fought to fund the commission when he was lieutenant governor and Gov. Pete Wilson was gutting it.

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Davis cut $500,000 for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, $1.4 million for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and $15 million proposed to create an immigration museum at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.

But Democrats also asked for far more than Republicans requested.

A partial accounting shows Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) submitting 15 requests amounting to $38 million. That’s five times more than the $7.7 million sought by his counterpart in the upper house, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco).


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