Cross posted at

A plan unveiled this week by Senate Democrats to shift billions of
dollars in services from the state to the counties might make
government more efficient. But it won’t help balance the budget.

The Democrats are proposing to shift several health, social service and
criminal justice programs to California’s 58 counties, but they are
also proposing to transfer the money to pay for the programs. Some of
that money would come from tax increases.

The proposal would shift juvenile parole services to counties, along
with the responsibility for jailing and supervising certain low-level
offenders convicted of drug and property crimes.

It would also increase the counties’ share of responsibility for the
state’s welfare-to-work program, hopefully giving them more of an
incentive to move recipients into the workforce, which could create
long-term savings for taxpayers. Currently, counties pay 2.5 percent of
the cost of welfare grants. That would grow to 25 percent. The proposal
would also shift the entire responsibility for child care for welfare
recipients to the counties.

Finally, the plan would shift responsibility to the counties for the
Adult Protective Services program, which investigates abuse of the
elderly, along with most other aging programs. It would eliminate the
state Department of Aging.

The shift would reduce the state budget by about $3.1 billion in the
first year and $4.3 billion after four years, while adding the same
amount of spending to county budgets. To pay for the programs the
counties would get revenue from a proposed oil severance tax, a portion
of the state sales tax, money from an extension of last year’s increase
in the Vehicle License Fee, and projected savings to the counties from
the implementation of federal health reform.

The Senate Democrats were already counting on most of those revenues to
help balance the state budget. So any money shifted from them to the
counties would have to be made up elsewhere, or state spending would
have to be cut further to make up the difference.