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Jerry Brown tells city officials to come to the table

January 19, 2011 |  1:52 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown spoke to more than 200 city officials Wednesday, defending his plan to use $1.7 billion in redevelopment funds -– most of which go to cities -– to help offset cuts to schools and healthcare services for the poor.

Speaking at the League of Cities conference in Sacramento, Brown made clear that he had heard the objections of city officials who dislike his plan to eliminate the redevelopment agencies, but he said his proposal represented his own best thinking about how to help the state out of a perennial, multibillion-dollar budget mess.

Brown called on city officials to put forward their own ideas if they disagreed with the proposal.

"Wherever I look, it's not pretty," Brown said, discussing his proposals to cut payments to the elderly and disabled and cut $1 billion from the state's public universities. "None of it looks good, but tell me how else to draw the lines. It's pretty much a zero-sum game right now."

Brown reminded the city officials that the state has to pare back in some places, that Californians must prioritize the services they want -- and are willing to pay for -- from state and local governments.

"If we don't do redevelopment, then what do we take?" Brown asked. "Do we take more from the university? Do we start cutting into the public schools, which have been cut year after year?"

Brown noted the reaction his budget has sparked in city halls across California. City officials in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and other cities have acted quickly to try to squirrel away millions of dollars before state lawmakers can get that money. Brown said he has "some legal questions" about those moves, but did not elaborate.

Instead, he called for cooler heads to prevail, and invited city officials to join the budget conversation. "I don't see this as a time for turf wars or the state fighting locals," he said.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento