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Brown Defends Deep Cuts In California Budget

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Governor Jerry Brown (AP)

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday defended the cuts and restructuring proposals in his budget plan against attacks by mayors who say they will cost jobs, and health and welfare advocates who say the changes could cost lives.

The state is in a crisis and has no choice but to make deep spending cuts and extend temporary tax increases to close a budget deficit projected to be $25 billion over the next 18 months, Brown said during a news conference.

“Sometimes when you pull the Band-Aid off, it’s better to do it quickly,” Brown said.

That will let California get past the pain and position itself for a long-term recovery, he said.

Brown spoke before meeting with mayors from nine of California’s largest cities who want to find alternatives to his proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones.

The Democratic governor said the mayors have a tough sell when other advocates are complaining of more devastating cuts. He said he is more sympathetic to health care advocates and welfare providers, who told legislative committees Wednesday that the cuts could devastate the lives of those who need adult day care, home care or who cannot afford to pay more for health care services.

Brown’s budget proposal includes $12.5 billion in spending cuts and a special election ballot measure asking voters to extend temporary increases in the personal income, sales and vehicle taxes. The tax extensions would be for five years and raise $9 billion through June 2012.

“These cuts are serious. They’re a retrenchment in what California was attempting to do in recent years, but they’re necessary because we just don’t have the money,” Brown said. “I don’t think they’re going to say anyone will die because redevelopment is eliminated.”

The state’s 425 redevelopment agencies can acquire land using eminent domain and develop it for commercial and residential use.

The projects are paid through the resulting increases in property tax revenue. That diverted $5.7 billion in property taxes in 2008-2009 from cities, counties and school districts

The mayors said redevelopment projects support 304,000 full- and part-time jobs in a typical year, 170,600 of them in construction. That contributes more than $40 billion annually to the state’s economy, bringing in $2 billion in state and local taxes, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement.

He was joined in his meeting with Brown by the mayors of Anaheim, Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Ana, San Jose and San Diego.

The meeting came hours after the Los Angeles City Council approved spending up to $52 million in redevelopment money. Some cities have rushed to commit the money in case the Legislature goes along with Brown’s plan to eliminate the agencies.

Villaraigosa defended cities’ moves even as they negotiate with Brown over whether the programs should be eliminated.

“This is the wrong time to move away from job creation,” Villaraigosa said during a news conference on the Capitol steps.

The mayors said they are open to reforming the agencies and have agreed to create a working group with the governor’s office to consider alternatives.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson told Brown that the loft the governor rents in the capital was refurbished with redevelopment money. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan reminded the governor of all the redevelopment projects he championed while he was that city’s mayor.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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