Governor takes $6M more from parks budget, guts Williamson Act

By on Tue, July 28, 2009

The governor signed a budget today that takes an additional $6 million out of the state parks budget and eliminates Williamson Act funds to give landowners tax breaks for keeping their land as open space, reports the Sacramento Bee. The Bee says that as many as 100 of the state’s 279 parks could be closed in October.

To eliminate the $156 million deficit and create the $500 million reserve, Schwarzenegger made $489 million in additional cuts, borrowed $50 million from one of the state’s special funds and found about $117 million in savings from money not spent in the last fiscal year.

The biggest single cut was $80 million in funds allocated to counties to finance programs that investigate and remediate cases of child abuse and neglect. Administration officials said the program had been spared in earlier rounds of budget cuts.

"The situation has just gotten to the point we can’t exempt them anymore," said Mike Genest, Schwarzenegger’s finance director.

Other cuts include:

• $60.6 million from funds used to pay for Medi-Cal eligibility workers at the county level. Aid to recipients was not cut, but they will likely have to wait longer for service.

• $50 million from the Healthy Families Program, a 12-year-old program that provides low-cost medical insurance to low-income families that don’t qualify for Medi-Cal. New enrollments were frozen two weeks ago due to budget cuts; officials say that unless other funding is found, some families now on the program will be disenrolled.

• $52.1 million from the Office of AIDS Prevention and Treatment. Officials said the cut means the elimination of all services except providing drug assistance and monitoring the number of cases.

• $27.8 million from the Williamson Act program, which provides money to counties that give tax breaks to landowners who keep their land as open space. Because the governor couldn’t unilaterally abolish the program, he cut the budget to a token $1,000.

• $6.2 million from state parks. Coupled with earlier cuts, the added reduction could mean as many as 100 of the state’s 279 parks could close in October. But officials cautioned that local governments with nearby parks, or public-private partnerships, might save some parks.