Cuts may go deeper than most planned

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By JOSHUA WOLFSON

The state budget package approved by the Senate could mean even greater losses for Mother Lode governments than originally anticipated.

Tuolumne County could experience larger-than-expected cuts in mental health and substance abuse services, while Sonora could see much of its budget surplus gobbled up by fee reductions, county and city officials said yesterday.

The budget bill reminded Tuolumne County Administrator C. Brent Wallace of an old adage:

"I waited for things to get worse and they did," he said.

However, the budget plan has not passed the state Assembly yet.

Assembly members were in session since late yesterday, trying to reach a compromise. The plan fell nine votes short in an early vote this morning, and was put ''on call'' as Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson and Republican leader Dave Cox began working to persuade reluctant colleagues.

However, a second vote this morning left the plan unpassed and on the table.

The nearly $100 billion budget proposal, including $13 billion in cuts, was approved Sunday by the Senate.

Gov. Gray Davis has urged the Assembly to work quickly to pass the budget for his final approval. The state is 29 days past the constitutional deadline for passing a budget.

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 remains uncertain.

The Senate's budget bill could mean cuts of between $500,000 and $750,000 for mental health counseling, intervention and youth programs, said Wallace, who stressed those numbers were general estimations.

The county's substance abuse programs could experience similar losses, he said.

"Those are things we knew, to some degree, but (they) really came to full fruition in the Senate's bill," he said.

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