Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Los Angeles County: Nothing to See Here, Folks

To anyone worried about LA County's $220 million-plus budget deficit, we've got great news. According to the Torrance Daily Breeze, County CEO William Fujioka's got this one. Yesterday, Fujioka released a budget proposal that closes this year's gap, cutting $1 billion in spending, without firing or furloughing any county workers. How does he do it? Well, best to not ask too many questions. As Lt. Frank Drebin might have said, let's move along, nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here, please keep moving.
If we do decide to look more closely, Fujioka's plan is less brilliant than it first appears. For one thing, his budget is only balanced if no more cuts to county funds come down from either Sacramento or DC. But more importantly, only $35.7 million (about 16%) of the savings comes from actual spending cuts; the other $184 million comes from one-time maneuvers, such as eliminating vacant positions, spending unused surplus money, and assuming increases in sales and property tax revenue and investment income. Of course, the lame bureaucrats at the county insist that this is the best they can do under the circumstances. According to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the county's budget is "really getting down to the bare bones." Um, Zev, you just described a $23 billion budget as "bare bones". Fujioka himself worried about the dire consequences of further cuts:
"What you'll see is providers throughout the whole county who will stop seeing Medicare and Medi-Cal patients as a consequence. If (patients) don't have that option, their only choice is to come to the county. We are the facility of last resort, and we already have long lines in our emergency rooms because of unemployment and people losing their health care."
We'll keep saying this until someone listens: any time you think $23 billion is insufficient to your needs, you're either living through Weimar-style hyperinflation, or you need to scale back your vision of what you think you need.


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