Brown's budget plans worry Contra Costa lawmakers

January 31, 2011 7:04:21 PM PST
Lawmakers in Contra Costa County desperately want more information about Gov. Jerry brown's budget plan, even if it's not what they want to hear. Supervisors can only wait and worry about what Gov. Brown's budget proposal really means for them.

"Quite frankly what we need is more details. We haven't seen that in terms of how all this would work," Contra Costa County City Administrator David Twa said.

At a study session, supervisors were trying to plan for what they do know -- that they must cut at least $45 million from their $1.2 billion budget. That's on top of nearly $100 million in cuts made over the past three years, and the state plans to send more budget challenges their way. Under Brown's plan, Contra Costa and other counties will see a shift of tens of thousands of low-level inmates from California prisons to local jails.

"We have aging facilities, but we also have a service demand problem. When people return back to the communities, there are housing issues and job issues," Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover said.

Contra Costa and other counties could also lose millions in redevelopment dollars, money that in part goes to local fire protection. At the same time, Contra Costa is also grappling with skyrocketing public employee pension costs from $202 million this year, to an estimated $231 million in fiscal year 2011-12. Negotiators will be asking employee unions to increase their pension contributions or face salary cuts and layoffs.

"That portion of what's known as the employee share that we pay, we negotiated in lieu of pay raises, so when you come in and say we need to pay more, you're asking us to take a pay cut," Rollie Katz from Public Employess Local 1 said.

"As the county administrator kept saying, we have an unsustainable benefit level and we just can't keep going like that," Kris Hunt from the Contra Costa County Tax Payers Association said.

Contra Costa County supervisors plan to have their final budget in place by May 3, so they give themselves plenty of time to send out layoff notices if that becomes necessary.