Board asks to spare programs from the ax

The state budget stalemate is finally over, but San Mateo County officials have yet to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Critical programs remain in danger, they say, as the governor may be poised to make $700 million in cuts of his own.

“We can live with the budget that was adopted. But cuts to that budget would really become a problem for us. My hope is that the governor signs the budget as-is,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon.

On Wednesday, San Mateo Board of Supervisors President Rose Jacobs Gibson was drafting a letter urging Schwarzenegger to preserve several programs that help the homeless and mentally ill and serve to reduce recidivism — easing problem conditions at the county’s overcrowded jails.

“There’s some speculation that the governor may try to wrap this thing up before the end of the week. If so, communication needs to be made quickly to make him understand our concerns,” Gordon said.

Schwarzenegger has said that he will not cut any monies from education, leaving counties nervous about their health and human services funding.

In San Mateo County, supervisors are asking the governor to preserve the county’s Proposition 36 funding, which offers treatment instead of jail time to first-time drug offenders, and has always been underfunded, said Supervisor Adrienne Tissier.

“Any cuts would destabilize the county substance abuse treatment infrastructure and you’d likely see an increase in jail overcrowding,” she said.

About 85 percent of San Mateo County Jail inmates have substance-abuse problems, Tissier said.

The county is also appealing to the governor to preserve funding for its programs that provide services for mentally ill and homeless offenders. The programs, Tissier said, have reduced jail time and psychiatric hospital days while increasing housing stability and employment.

Local transportation officials are also hoping the governor will not make additional cuts to state transportation agencies. He slashed $1.3 billion from that budget in May.

tbarak@examiner.com

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