By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
A preliminary victory was won for Del Norte County's sheriff, schools, and other local government programs yesterday when the California Assembly voted to fix massive cuts made by the Senate.
The state budget passed by the California Senate Sunday would have taken away nearly $1 million from the local Sheriff's Department and millions more from the county, Crescent City and school district governments, threatening more local jobs and programs.
Monday, Assembly members put on a marathon 29-hour session, passing a compromise budget with far less impact.
Specifically, the Assembly's version puts back a $500,000 annual grant to rural and small counties' sheriff departments.
In Del Norte's case, the grant will save about seven jobs at the Sheriff's Department.
"It is good news that at least the budget didn't go through the Assembly the way it was," said Sheriff Dean Wilson, referring to the Senate's budget version.
The changes made by the Assembly will also keep cuts to a minimum for the Del Norte County Unified School District. But earlier layoffs predicted by the district in June will likely stand.
"Everything that we've seen so far is that it's similar to the governor's May revise, which is what we based our budget on when we passed it in June," said Rodney Jahn, superintendent of business for the school district.
"If that's true, it looks like we will have the same layoffs and cuts as at that time," Jahn added.
Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Arcata), who represents Del Norte and five other counties, said she voted to pass the Senate's budget with amendments, but reluctantly.
"I'm not happy with this budget, but I passed it so we can pay our bills and our employees. We will start off next year with an $8 billion deficit, because the Republicans are not willing to vote for revenue enhancements ¬ó taxes," Berg said.
Calling from the Assembly floor yesterday, after 29 hours of floor debate, Berg said she was happy money for rural sheriffs, counties and schools were added back.
"It was the single biggest piece of funding that without it would mean police deputies off the street. So, I am very happy the vote came through," she said.
Local city and county officials are still uncertain about the impacts of the budget, as no details have been delivered about additions made by the Assembly yesterday.
"It's one of those things that's going to come in bits and pieces. I'm sure there will be an impact, it's just a matter of how much," said Crescent City Finance Director Carol Leuthold.
The core budget agreed upon by both the Senate and Assembly will go to the Governor's Office tomorrow. It is expected the governor will sign it Friday or Saturday.
Changes made by the Assembly are not included in the core budget. Those additions, called "trailer bills" will be sent back to the Senate for approval when it convenes mid-August.
The trailer bills must be approved separately by the Senate and the governor before they are included in the final state budget.