Pet projects win fa­vor in bud­get

Law­mak­ers al­lot mil­lions in state funds for work in their dis­tricts. GOP lead­ers call it ‘pork.’

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Pa­trick McGreevy and Phil Wil­lon

SACRA­MENTO — The pro­posed bud­get to be voted on by the Leg­is­la­ture on Mon­day con­tains mil­lions of dol­lars in ear­marks by law­mak­ers seek­ing state fa­vor for their dis­tricts.

The ex­pen­di­tures in­clude money to ren­o­vate bridges, re­store creeks, ex­pand parks, erect sound walls and study the fea­si­bil­ity of open­ing a new uni­ver­sity in Stock­ton.

Repub­li­can lead­ers, call­ing the spend­ing “pork,” say that the items typ­i­cally do not re­ceive the leg­isla­tive de­bate that regular bills get and siphon away money that should go to the state’s rainy-day fund or pay down debt.

“Cal­i­for­nia still has over $200 bil­lion of out­stand­ing debts and li­a­bil­i­ties,” said Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Bob Huff of San Di­mas. “This is no time to be pork­ing out the bud­get. It is sim­ply ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

Law­mak­ers said the al­lot­ments were not re­wards for bud­get votes, as was com­mon be­fore state vot­ers low­ered the thresh­old for pas­sage of spend­ing plans from a two-thirds ma­jor­ity to a sim­ple ma­jor­ity.

An ear­mark won by Assem­bly­woman Jac­qui Ir­win (D-Thou­sand Oaks) would pro­vide $500,000 for lab equip­ment and to set up an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree pro­gram at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity Chan­nel Is­lands in Cam-

ar­illo.

Ir­win asked the As­sem­bly Bud­get Com­mit­tee to in­clude the fund­ing in March, af­ter re­ceiv­ing the re­quest from Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent Richard Rush.

“Sup­port­ing an en­gi­neer­ing pro­gram at CSU Chan­nel Is­lands is good not only for Ven­tura County, where stud­ies show a need for more en­gi­neers, it’s also good for Cal­i­for­nia,” Ir­win said in a state­ment.

Assem­bly­woman Su­san Tala­mantes Eg­gman (DS­tock­ton) won a pro­vi­sion to have the state ab­sorb the cost of study­ing the estab­lish­ment of a new Cal State cam­pus in the city of Stock­ton.

Her pro­posal was broad­ened to say the study would look over­all at where cam­puses may be needed, but Eg­gman said Stock­ton is the only Cal­i­for­nia city with more than 300,000 peo­ple that has no public uni­ver­sity cam­pus in prox­im­ity.

“We know that Stock­ton is a strong, vi­brant city where a public uni­ver­sity will thrive,” Eg­gman said ear­lier this year. “We need to make the case to the rest of the state.”

One of the big­gest ear­marks is $15 mil­lion won by As­sem­bly­man Kevin McCarty (D-Sacra­mento). It would bring his city’s Tower Bridge into a “state of good re­pair” so that Cal­trans could re­lin­quish con­trol of the struc­ture to the cities of Sacra­mento and West Sacra­mento.

The cities want the bridge, in part, so they can some­day in­stall rails across it for a new street­car sys­tem, even though vot­ers in Sacra­mento re­cently re­jected such a project.

An­other fac­tor: Sacra­mento has spon­sored an an­nual “Farm to Fork” fundrais­ing din­ner on the bridge, and it has been cum­ber­some for the city to ob­tain per­mits from Cal­trans to close the struc­ture for the event, of­fi­cials said.

The bud­get also in­cludes $1 mil­lion for the Wildlife Health Cen­ter at UC Davis, which was added by a bud­get sub­com­mit­tee on re­sources and trans­porta­tion chaired by As­sem­bly­man Richard Bloom (D-Santa Mon­ica).

Bloom’s chief of staff, Sean MacNeil, said the fund­ing re­quest came from non­profit marine an­i­mal res­cue groups that have been in­un­dated by thou­sands of sea lion pups stranded on Cal­i­for­nia beaches this year.

Re­searchers say warm ocean tem­per­a­tures have re­duced the fish sup­ply avail­able to the pups’ moth­ers, forc­ing them far­ther out to sea and away from their pups.

“It’s been a record year in the num­ber of baby sea li­ons wash­ing ashore,” MacNeil said.

MacNeil said the UC Davis cen­ter would ad­min­is­ter the funds, is­su­ing grants to an­i­mal res­cue groups car­ing for the sea li­ons.

The Leg­is­la­ture also is set­ting aside $2 mil­lion to help ex­pand hours of op­er­a­tion at the non­profit Life­Long Clinic, an ur­gent care fa­cil­ity, in Con­tra Costa County.

The clinic opened af­ter the clo­sure of Doc­tors Med­i­cal Cen­ter, the only com­mu­nity hos­pi­tal in a five-city area. It pri­mar­ily served Medi-Cal pa­tients and res­i­dents with­out health in­sur­ance. The money was sought by As­sem­bly­man Tony Thur­mond (D-Rich­mond), who rep­re­sents the re­gion.

“This ur­gent care cen­ter fills a void,” Thur­mond said Fri­day. Other ear­marks in­clude:

$6 mil­lion for restora­tion of Chol­las Creek in San Diego’s in­ner city, in a dis­trict rep­re­sented by Assem­bly­woman Shirley We­ber (D-San Diego), who chairs the As­sem­bly Bud­get Com­mit­tee.

$1 mil­lion for wa­ter qual­ity im­prove­ments, wet­land restora­tion and pro­tec­tion against in­va­sive species in Clear Lake, north of Santa Rosa. The ap­pro­pri­a­tion was re­quested by As­sem­bly­man Bill Dodd (D-Napa).

$700,000 for con­struc­tion of a sound wall to re­duce traf­fic noise at Wa­lerga Park in Sacra­mento, at the be­hest of As­sem­bly­man Ken Coo­ley (D-Ran­cho Cordova).

$250,000 sought by the Cal­i­for­nia Leg­isla­tive Black Cau­cus for the Mervyn M. Dy­mally African Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal and Eco­nomic In­sti­tute at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The in­sti­tute is named af­ter a for­mer state leg­is­la­tor.

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