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Obama’s budget would trim funds to California

For struggling California, President Obama’s proposed budget will provide less money for a state government awash in its own red ink, less energy assistance for tens of thousands of poor households and less funding for projects such as those aimed at reducing beach pollution and neighborhood blight.

And that’s just a starting point in the eyes of the House’s new GOP majority, which is determined to wield the ax a lot more to reduce a record deficit.

As Washington gears up for its biggest budget battle in years, the reaction to Obama’s plan from California’s famously fractured congressional delegation — 34 Democrats and 19 Republicans — was predictably along party lines.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that it “reflects the need to cut the deficit in a responsible way … in sharp contrast to the Republicans’ budget, which is so extreme that it would jeopardize our fragile economic recovery.”

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But House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) tweeted: “POTUS budget = more taxes, more spending & more borrowing To create #jobs we need to cut spending to ensure strong future.”

Obama’s proposed budget would cut the federal money that goes to California and other states for jailing illegal immigrants — from $330 million last year to $136 million next year. California has been a top recipient of the money, which still represents a fraction of the nearly $1 billion the state expects to spend on incarcerating illegal immigrants.

The White House proposal also would cut $300 million from the $4.4 billion in community development block grant funds that cities and counties receive to fund local efforts to generate jobs, revitalize rundown neighborhoods and help low-income residents. That could mean $37 million less to California cities and counties, which are due to receive $500 million under the program this year.

The White House budget proposal would provide California with about $100 million next year — or half as much as it received last year — to help poor households pay air-conditioning and heating bills and avoid utility cutoffs for nonpayment. Nearly 122,000 fewer households in the state would be served, according to Mark Wolfe of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Assn., which represents state programs that disburse the federal funds.

It also would reduce the funding available to California, from nearly $150 million last year to about $109 million next year, for water projects such as upgrading aging sewage treatment plants and preventing runoff of polluted water.

“These proposed cuts couldn’t come at a worse time for California. We have a $25-billion deficit and already spend a billion dollars each year incarcerating undocumented felons. These cuts will drop federal reimbursement to just 8 cents for every dollar California spends,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance.

“It’s unfair to ask state taxpayers to pay more when education, law enforcement and social services are taking massive cuts. Gov. Brown will work with the California congressional delegation to push for adequate funding.”

On the other hand, the budget calls for $8 billion for a high-speed and intercity passenger rail initiative, a chunk of which could go to California, which is seeking to build a $43-billion high-speed rail system that would link Southern California and the Bay Area. But House Republicans are seeking to cut the funding for this year.

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Once again, Obama has proposed to end funding for building more Boeing C-17 military cargo planes, the last major military aircraft produced in Southern California, once a center of the aerospace industry. A White House effort to end funding for the plane — assembled in Long Beach — has previously run into trouble in Congress from members of both parties whose states benefit from production of pieces of the aircraft.

Obama proposed spending $900 million nationwide next year to buy land for national parks, forests and wildlife refuges and help states fund parks and recreation projects, while House Republicans are seeking to drastically reduce funding for the reminder of the current fiscal year. Among the projects that could be affected by the budget battle is $3.75 million to buy land from willing sellers for expansion of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

richard.simon@latimes.com


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