Budget woes still linger

Local cities did not take a direct hit when the state closed a $19.1-billion gap and completed its budget last week, but Glendale and Burbank city leaders are still leery about the fiscal road ahead.

Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird acknowledged the budget signed Oct. 8 — 100 days after the start of the fiscal year — was less of a burden on cities than last year's budget. Last year, Glendale was forced to turn over $11 million in redevelopment funds to the state. Burbank wrote a check to the state for $16 million, and, all told, cities statewide sent $2 billion back to the capitol.

This year there is no apparent tab for cities — for now.

"As long as the state has the structural budget problem it has, all public agencies continue to be at risk," Starbird said in an e-mail.

He pointed out that the governor and lawmakers used rosy economic forecasts, accounting tricks and billions in borrowing to find $10 billion of the $19.1-billion gap. He said he is concerned that the plan will prove less viable as the year goes on.

"Call me paranoid, but might there be a possible threat to local resources after November when the real flaws in the state budget begin to be highlighted?" he said.

The budget is not the last word on the tension between cities and state government. Proposition 22, on the Nov. 2 ballot, would bar the state from "raiding" municipal funds to balance the budget.

Local city leaders back Proposition 22, while state lawmakers remain wary.

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) opposes Proposition 22, but has said that state and local agencies are all in trouble together, and that they cannot solve their problems separately.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) has not taken a position on Proposition 22, saying he understands the "justifiable anger" of city leaders, but he warned against going to the polls to lock down spending priorities.

"I think ballot-box governance always results in unintended consequences," he said.

Like Liu and Gatto, Starbird expressed concern about going to the ballot to settle a dispute.

But, he said, "I feel we have more difficult years ahead, and we know the state will continue to have a structural budget problem that it has not entirely dealt with this year. So yes, cities need Proposition 22 to pass."

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