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NEW BUDGET CARVES UP LOCAL PORK.

Byline: Terri Hardy Sacramento Bureau

The $81.3 billion state budget signed Tuesday by Gov. Gray Davis provides millions for projects in the San Fernando Valley region, although the governor also vetoed several projects important to area lawmakers.

The budget provides $5 million to purchase environmentally sensitive land in the Oakmont area of Glendale, $4.8 million to construct a new building at Mission College and $400,000 for restoration of the earthquake-damaged Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino.

The Valley's secession movement also got a crucial jump-start with the governor's approval of $1.8 million to help fund a study of the effects of a breakaway city. Davis said he was not taking sides on the secession issue.

``It's important that a study be done to determine if the Valley can be financially independent and can support itself should it ultimately become a separate city,'' he said at a Capitol news conference.

Davis signed the budget after vetoing $300 million in programs and regional requests. Lawmakers said they were disappointed to lose $2 million that would have helped pay for moving the Los Angeles Children's Museum from downtown to Griffith Park, $400,000 to expand a sound insulation program for homes near Burbank Airport and $100,000 to put up fences at Valley View Park in North Hollywood.

Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who won his push for the cityhood study but lost funding for the Children's Museum, said the highs and lows of the budget process are to be expected.

``The governor had to cut $300 million to make it a balanced budget, so you kind of expect it,'' Hertzberg said.

Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City, was successful in his multiyear fight to get $4.8 million for a new building at Mission College. Because of administrative snafus at the college, previous allocations for the same purpose went unused. Cardenas, joined by Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys, fought for the money to be turned back to the school.

But as a result of getting the $4.8 million, other requests suffered this year, Cardenas said. ``They figured that the Northeast Valley got a lot of money, even though that money was approved years ago,'' he said.

An official lawmaker-by-lawmaker tally of budget requests, obtained by the Daily News, shows money for legislators' pork-barrel projects is not doled out equally and those close to the budget process often emerge as the biggest winners.

Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, the most powerful member of the Senate, also ranked first in the race for budget dollars, hauling in $28.1 million for his district.

Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, D-Los Angeles, the most powerful member of the Assembly, was second, with $13.3 million.

Sen. Steve Peace, D-La Mesa, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, was a close third with $13.2 million for his district, and not a single veto by the governor.

Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonprofit policy group based in Sacramento, said the inequality of the pork distribution is a political fact of life.

``The closer you are to the budget process, the more influence you have,'' Ross said.

But that influence doesn't always have staying power with the governor, Capitol insiders said.

One of the biggest losers in the budget lottery was Assemblyman George Runner, R-Lancaster.

Runner, who was vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and the panel's lone Republican, put 13 items totaling nearly $4.5 million in the Legislature's version of the budget. But Davis vetoed eight of those requests, bringing Runner's total pork down to $1.2 million.

Runner could not be reached for comment.

Lawmakers said their appeals for funds met with greater success when they matched Davis' top priorities of education and the environment.

Sen. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, said he believes that is the reason the budget provides $5 million to purchase the Oakmont land. Gov. Pete Wilson had blue-penciled the request in past budgets.

``I think preservation of open space was a top priority for the governor, and that showed in items approved throughout the state,'' Schiff said.

Marc Stirdivant, president of the citizens group that fought to preserve the 238 acres planned for development, said the money will help protect the community's quality of life.

``This is pristine land on the north slope of the Verdugo Mountains, with 3,000 mature oak and sycamore trees,'' Stirdivant said. ``Instead of a horrific proposal to put a wedge in the middle of the mountains, this means we'll be able to connect a series of open spaces.''

The governor's budget included more than $80 million for projects in Southern California, including more than $30 million for environmental and park projects in the greater Los Angeles area. More than $12 million was designated to fund area museums and cultural centers and $7 million was slated for a local school projects.

For a host of statewide projects, the budget provides $11.8 million to train 3,300 new teachers. It also returns $670 million to local governments, which lost a portion of revenues to the state in recent years.

Lawmakers were angered however, over a decision by Davis to remove $1 million from the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control that would have been used to assess toxic exposure at schools.

Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Los Angeles, who cited recent revelations of toxic problems at the Belmont Learning Center and other campuses, said this is the worst possible time for the governor to cut funding.

``It's a disaster - I believe the governor was misled on this issue,'' Hayden said.

In a document explaining his vetoes, Davis said he would use the $1 million instead to address growing concerns of toxic contamination in portable classrooms.

At his press conference, Davis said his actions spoke for themselves and declined to provide any additional explanation of his vetoes or the reasoning behind them.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Here is what the new state budget provides for programs requested by Valley area lawmakers and leaders of the Senate and Assembly, as well as the amounts vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis.

Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco

General Fund: $27 million

Other funds: $1.1 million

Vetoed: $4.85 million

Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, D-Los Angeles

General Fund: $13.3 million

Vetoed: $8.5 million

Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys

General Fund: $200,000

Other funds: $4.7 million

Vetoed: $2 million

Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City

General Fund: $150,000

Other funds: $4.7 million

Vetoed: $1.1 million

Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Los Angeles

General Fund: $2.8 million

Vetoed: $3.5 million

Assemblyman Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys

General Fund: $1.8 million

Vetoed: $2.2 million

Sen. W.J. ``Pete'' Knight, R-Palmdale

General Fund: $350,000

Vetoed: $1.8 million

Assemblyman Wally Knox, D-Los Angeles

General Fund: $200,000

Vetoed: 0

Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, D-Encino

General Fund: $1.8 million

Vetoed: 0

Assemblyman Tom McClintock, R-Granada Hills

General Fund: 0

Vetoed: 0

Assemblyman George Runner, R-Lancaster

General Fund: $1.2 million

Vetoed: $3.3 million

Sen. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena

General Fund: $5.5 million

Vetoed: $400,000

Assemblyman Jack Scott, D-Pasadena

General Fund: $200,000

Vetoed: 0

Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Camarillo

General Fund: $1 million

Vetoed: $1.5 million

Sen. Cathie Wright, R-Simi Valley

General Fund: $400,000

Vetoed: $1 million

Assemblyman Scott Wildman, D-Glendale

General Fund: $1.1 million

Vetoed: 0

SOURCE: California Legislature

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Box: Winners and losers (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 30, 1999
Words:1246
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