County officials uneasy over state budget proposal 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $143.4 billion budget proposal could be a mixed bag for San Mateo County, officials said Wednesday.

Even as local legislative analysts and finance experts combed over the 170-plus-page summary, several warning flags were going up, they said.

Although offering a $4.4 billion funding carrot to counties for building jails to relieve overcrowding, the governor’s proposal would also shift the responsibility for housing hundreds of nonviolent convicts with sentences of three years or less to counties, increasing the number of prisoners, officials said.

While the funding for new jails is needed, new inmates could result in further overcrowding, said Sheriff Greg Munks.

"That’s a big, big concern," Munks said.

Maguire Correctional Facility, with a recommended capacity of 688 inmates, housed more than 850 on average in 2006.

"There should be equal funding for treatment and prevention — to avoid recidivism — as there is for building new jails," Deputy County Manager Mary McMillan said.

Overall, Munks said he supports Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal, which includes full funding for juvenile crime prevention, money to fight methamphetamine sales and track felony sexual convicts.

The governor’s plan to cut the state CalWorks rolls by 11.7 percent to about 413,000 families next year, touted as saving about $7 billion, also caused concern.

Funding from CalWorks, a welfare program, is particularly important to recipients in high-cost counties such as San Mateo, and cutting it makes achieving self-sufficiency more difficult for recipients, officials said. Further proposed CalWorks cuts of about$140 million a year statewide would suspend the annual cost-of-living raise for the state’s CalWorks recipients.

The governor’s plan to expand health care coverage to the uninsured received applause, but some said the details of how it is implemented could have a big impact on the county.

"His health care reform proposal is bold and innovative," McMillan said. "This is really great news that he’s tackling the problem too."

San Mateo County launched its own blue-ribbon task force on how to expand health coverage in September. A final report, due out in July, is likely to cover many of the same issues, officials said.

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