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Brown's Countdown: County Execs Supportive Yet Skeptical of Brown's Realignment Plan

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The word "realignment" is getting a lot of buzz in the aftermath of Governor Jerry Brown's budget proposal.  It's the concept of shifting responsibility for services and programs from the state to California's 58 counties.  Top county administrators are taking a close look at the governor's ideas - and there is support…

Szalay: "At the outset, the suggestions he's put forth have merit."

… but also skepticism: 

Miller: "The devil will be in the monies as well as the details." 

And the opinions of the county executives we just heard - first, Sacramento's Steven Szalay, then Placer's Tom Miller - seem to be shared by many county officials across the state.  Szalay was Alameda County's top administrator during the last round of realignment in 1991.  He says realignment worked then - and it can work now.

Szalay: "The services that he's talking about, in many cases, can be more efficiently provided at the local level with less state oversight and more flexibility." 

But Szalay has three concerns: First, the services must come with money to pay for them.  Second, that funding source can't disappear after the governor's proposed five-year tax extension expires.  And third, the state must give counties the flexibility to make their own decisions.  Placer County's Tom Miller says even if the matter of money is addressed, that last point will still be key:

Miller: "If the state can somehow embrace a concept of, they are not in charge of those programs, and allow the counties to tailor those programs to local citizens' needs and priorities, then that will really be the win at the end of the day on this."

The programs Brown wants counties to take over include court security, foster care and child welfare services.  He also wants to shift responsibility for adult parolees to county probation departments and transfer low-level offenders from state prisons to county jails.

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