L.A. County funding plan nearly derailed in supervisors’ dispute

"Children charged with crimes are not only entitled to competent representation but an opportunity to avoid the prison pipeline if it is at all possible to do so," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas,
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

In an unusual display of brinkmanship, Los Angeles County Supervisors nearly derailed a plan for $362.4 million in spending over disagreements about how to handle $75 million slated for capital projects and maintenance throughout the county.

The supervisors were slated to approve a supplemental budget Tuesday, which included money for a variety of programs including a plan for reforms in the county’s jails that was approved earlier in the same meeting. It also included funding to hire additional social workers, and proceed with a contract for 500 jail beds at a facility in Kern County.

But in an unusual move, board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich voted against approving the budget, which requires yes votes from four of the five supervisors.

Ridley-Thomas voiced concerns about how the capital project and maintenance money -- which is not yet allocated to specific projects -- would be spent, and how it would be divided among the five supervisors’ districts.


“What is a fair formula for the distribution of those unallocated dollars?” he said in an interview after the vote. “We ought to have a fully clarified discussion of what the distribution of those resources are. We haven’t had that discussion.”

The failure of the budget vote led Supervisor Gloria Molina to exclaim, “Just like the feds, we have no budget?” and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky called the move to block it “tea party-esque.”

“There’s never been a move by a county supervisor to use the four-vote requirement to recognize new revenue as an instrument to frustrate a policy objective,” Yaroslavsky said later in an interview.

The stalemate was short-lived, however. At the end of the meeting, the supervisors came back for a second vote and unanimously passed the budget, but with the caveat that the $75 million in maintenance and capital funding would go into an account that requires three votes rather than four to approve spending.

The supervisors said afterward that they were satisfied with the resolution, although Yaroslavsky also called the dispute “a colossal waste of time.”

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