Liu and Gatto react to Brown's inauguration

State lawmakers representing Glendale and Burbank said Gov. Jerry Brown's inaugural speech on Jan. 4 set the tone for what will prove an austere year in the state capitol.

State Sen. Carol Liu (D- La Cañada Flintridge) said Brown is better able than his predecessor to lead California out of the depths of what is now estimated to be a $28-billion budget deficit.

"I thought it was very refreshing to have somebody just speak the truth and make a plea that we Californians need to solve these issues," Liu said.

A champion of social service programs such as CalWORKS and In-Home Supportive Services, Liu knows those programs will be in for hard times. She said that later this month she will convene a meeting of leaders involved in child welfare services.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced funding for the programs in a line-item veto a week after the state budget passed in October.

After Schwarzenegger blue-lined the funds, Liu said "a lot of us were running around saying, 'How can we save this?'"

In the meeting this month, Liu said, she will emphasize that the state is unlikely to have matching money for some programs partially funded by the federal government, and that it is time to focus on only those programs that do the most for families in poverty.

"I don't know all the answers, but I've asked staff and the Health and Human Services Agency to take a harder look, and be smarter with less money," she said.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) said he found Brown's speech inspiring, as it helped prepare a nervous public for a difficult task ahead.

"I thought the governor indicated very strongly he is going to approach this crisis with seriousness and candor and calm, and I think calm is very important at times like this," Gatto said, who added that he thought Brown's promise not to "embrace delay and denial" was especially welcome.

Gatto has already introduced measures intended to dial back the initiative process, reforms that he said will have positive fiscal results.

"We've passed ballot initiatives in years past that promised the world but ended up spending money in perpetuity," he said.

The assemblyman will also turn to some local issues with his legislative efforts, he said. For example, he said the Glendale Police Department approached him about making it easier for local authorities to address speeding and traffic problems on city streets.

On Wednesday, Gatto led an intensive study session on parliamentary procedures. Named last month as the assistant speaker pro tem, Gatto will preside over the Assembly when Speaker John Perez (D- Los Angeles) is unavailable.

Lobbyist association pushes for tax relief

The Valley Industry & Commerce Assn., a trade group with 350 member businesses from Calabasas to Pasadena, will focus its lobbying muscle on movies, taxes and land use permits in 2011.

On Wednesday, the organization unveiled its top 11 priorities for the year, led by an effort to kill the business tax in Los Angeles. Neither Burbank nor Glendale have a business tax, and L.A.'s levy is blamed for dampening job growth and spurring companies to move from the city to friendlier confines.

The association also wants to triple the pot the State Film Production Tax Credit makes available to small- and medium-sized productions. Right now the California Film Commission can grant $1 million in credits per year; the association would like to see that bumped up to $3 million.

The organization will also seek a widening of the Ventura (101) Freeway and push for a change in labor law so that overtime is paid out for employees who work more than 40 hours a week, not eight hours a day.

"We know these issues are a significant undertaking, but we also understand the considerable stakes for the business community to follow through in these policy areas," the association's president, Stuart Waldman, said in a statement.

Disaster declaration will unlock cleanup funds

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich's measure to declare a disaster in the wake of the December storms passed unanimously Jan. 4.

In the motion introduced last week, Antonovich said the storms that started Dec. 19 "resulted in the evacuation of residents, the potential loss of property, and the closure of major transportation routes."

Antonovich aide Tony Bell said the declaration "will allow the county to be eligible for state and federal funds to cover the cost of cleanup and repairs. Typically it is for roads and other infrastructure."

Bell said preliminary estimates are that the storms caused more than $6 million in damage.

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