Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has proposed a plan to shift responsibility for elder care, children's services and other programs to the county level to help California address its $19.1 billion budget shortfall, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The change would provide local authorities with more control over the programs, which would continue to receive significant funding from the state. Steinberg said his proposal aims to make the programs more efficient and cost-effective.
Some legislators also have proposed plans to make it easier for county residents to enact local taxes to help fund public programs.
History of Shifting Responsibilities to Counties
To illustrate the potential benefits of his plan, Steinberg pointed to a 2007 legislative change in which California shifted responsibility for juvenile justice programs from the state to counties.
Drew Soderborg, a juvenile justice expert at the Legislative Analyst's Office, said the cost of juvenile detention at the county level is about half the cost of juvenile detention at the state level.
In 1991, California lawmakers granted counties authority over mental health programs. Counties later obtained jurisdiction over certain other social service programs.
Paul McIntosh, executive director of the California State Association of Counties, said counties believe they could run some programs better than the state but are "gun-shy" about taking on increased responsibility because of funding insecurities (Ferriss, Sacramento Bee, 5/30).
California is among several states across the country that are contemplating proposals to shift social service programs to county and municipal governments because of severe budget shortfalls, the AP/Ventura County Star reports.
Other states considering such changes include:
- Mississippi; and
- Missouri (Lieb, AP/Ventura County Star, 5/29).