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California’s Budget Crisis Prompts Venice Town Hall Meetiing:

A Venice Town Hall meeting was held last week to discuss the state budget that was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on February 20.State Assemblymember Ted Lieu who represents the 53rd Assembly District explained that the budget eliminated California’s $42 billion deficit with $14.9 billion in cuts, $12.5 billion in tax increases, $7.8 billion in federal stimulus money, $5.4 billion in borrowing, and $2 billion in a reserve fund. He also stated, “the budget is fair.” Lieu also pointed out that some aspects of the approved budget would hinge on voter approval on May 19. Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angles County’s Third District Supervisor, projected that the budget will cause Los Angeles County to lose a quarter of a billion dollars. “The big question for us is whether this budget has accurately reflected the [state] revenues for 2009-2010 or whether it is sugar-coated.”Yaroslavsky then discussed the County’s $22 billion budget by noting $15 billion of it comes from the state and federal government and $7 billion is generated locally. He is worried about the local contribution because so many in the County are requesting a property tax decrease and because sales tax revenues have decreased.The county Supervisor also noted that County services focus on human services such as mental health, healthcare, and child welfare, and therefore “when the demand for our services are the highest is when the economy is in its worse condition.” The County deals with this paradox by saving money in the good years so they are prepared for the bad years. He also mentioned that one out of every five people in Los Angeles County is on some form of public assistance which could be Medi-Cal, Medicare, or public assistance.Second District Los Angeles City Councilmember Wendy Greuel stated Los Angeles needs to cut $433 million from its $7 billion budget and therefore “everything is on the table.” She believes that Los Angeles will have to “get back to basic city services” and that the federal stimulus package will help on a variety of issues.Audience questions focused on homelessness, possible local budget trade-offs, tax increases, and the foreclosure crisis.Yaroslavsky stated at the meeting’s close that everyone in our nation has to realize that “we are all brothers and sisters and have a certain responsibility to be involved with one another and not toss people overboard or under the bus when things get tough.” The Venice Neighborhood Council arranged the February 25 Town Hall meeting, and Kitty Felde who is a special correspondent for public radio station KPCC moderated it.

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