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Counties warn of mutiny over state budget crisis

February 12, 2009 |  4:46 pm

Fed up with what they see as a state raid on cash that belongs to them, top officials from a dozen counties converged on Sacramento on Thursday and warned that mutiny is near.

In a contentious meeting attended by a half-dozen legislators, the officials threatened lawsuits, vowed to withhold local taxes owed to Sacramento and said they would shut down unfunded state programs -- including those aiding children and the poor -- if the "deadbeat state," as one official put it, does not change its ways.

Their anger stems from money the state owes the counties but has delayed paying amid the ongoing fiscal crisis. Some of that cash -- but not all of it -- could start flowing again if lawmakers pass a state spending plan in coming days. State officials may continue to hold back some cash indefinitely.

"It's incomprehensible," said Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a certified public accountant, on the subject of the state's action on county funding. Turning to the legislators at the meeting, he added: "We are not the bank, and you need to find different lenders."

Like students being scolded, some lawmakers sat slouched in their seats in the packed conference room at the counties'  Sacramento headquarters.

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone said his county would consider issuing the state IOUs instead of the property tax revenue it is required to send to Sacramento, as well as shutting down some state programs.

"There will be no state programs provided by our county," he said.

The officials lambasted legislators for dragging their feet on solving the state's $42-billion budget shortfall, which is forcing public works projects to shut down and social service agencies to borrow and use up reserves.

"We are fed up," said Riverside County Supervisor John F. Tavaglione. "You have truly lost touch with those you represent."

--Patrick McGreevy