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Plan could cuff sheriffs' departments

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Sheriffs' departments in rural counties stand to lose more than half a million dollars each this year if state Assembly members pass the latest budget compromise.

The effects on law enforcement could be devastating, the sheriffs for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties said yesterday.

The state Senate approved a budget plan Sunday in hopes of ending the state's 29-day budget deadlock.

However, the plan had not passed the state Assembly as of late this morning.

Assembly members were in session at 3:45 a.m. today, trying to reach a compromise. The plan fell nine votes short, and was put ‘‘on call'' as Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson and Republican leader Dave Cox began working to persuade reluctant colleagues to vote in favor.

The almost $100 billion budget proposal, which included $13 billion in cuts, was approved Sunday by the Senate. It was taken up by the state Assembly late yesterday.

In a statement Sunday, Gov. Gray Davis urged the Assembly to work quickly to pass the budget for his final approval.

Area leaders have known for months that county and city government will take hits — the state faces a $38 billion deficit. But how hard those hits will be is still uncertain.

The plan that passed the Senate on Sunday would ax Assembly Bill 443, approved two years ago, giving $500,000 annually to rural sheriffs' departments.

The budget also cuts out high-tech grants and money for school outreach programs, and eliminates state reimbursement to counties and cities for holding state parolees, booking out-of-area inmates and training deputies to work inside jails.

"I just don't think the Senate was being realistic when it made these cuts, particularly to law enforcement, because that's one of the services that the public expects," Tuolumne County Sheriff Dick Rogers said. "This would be an extremely crippling blow."

Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum said the loss of the rural county sheriff's grants overshadows the other cuts.

"All of it's important, but that's the killer," Downum said.


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