By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"It wasn't just that it was late. It was beyond late," says Cedillo. "L.A. County hasn't generated a lot of good will up here. And now people were angry that the county was coming forward with this proposal long after the budget deadline."
Moreover, while half of the proposed funds are federal dollars, all the money would have been administered by the state, and Pete Wilson was loath to participate in distributing cash assistance to what he terms "able-bodied adults." Wilson refused to sign off.
As it became clear that the whole GR compromise might be lost, Elena Lopez-Aldridge, a staffer for Speaker Villaraigosa, orchestrated a late-night conference call between her office, L.A. County Chief Legis-lative Analyst Phil Ansell, Sacramento lobbyist for DPSS Gail Groner, Cedillo chief of staff Dan Savage and Erlenbusch.
"Quite simply, the bottom line was, what do we do now?" explains Erlenbusch. "We had to decide right then and there, because we had to tell the Speaker."
A critical player in this debate was Savage. Now that Wilson had gutted the funding, Savage was opposed to giving L.A. County the right to maintain its GR grants at $221, since it was unclear what the poor would get in return. Plus, there was still no commitment on the proposed CalWorks job-training program and support services, items that Savage and Erlenbusch demanded be included for GR recipients.
"Initially, I was infuriated at the county advocates," says Savage. "The only reason I finally changed my mind and supported that language was that Bob [Erlenbusch] convinced me in our conference call that GR folks would see a net financial gain over the nine-month period."
It was Ansell who ultimately saved the day. He told his fellow conference callers there were three solid votes on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for extending the time limits and financing the job training and extra resources. Understandably, Supervisors Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Gloria Molina, whose districts are hardest hit by the GR cuts, supported the deal. The other endorsement surprisingly came from Don Knabe, a conservative.
"The supervisor has been completely supportive of this plan ever since our people at DPSS came up with it," explains Knabe press aide John Wallace. "First, we get to keep our lowest grant level. Second, the money is being used for mandatory job training." Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a nominal liberal who voiced early and strong opposition to extended GR benefits, could not be reached for comment on his position at press time.
Savage says Ansell's unexpected announcement that the county actually had the money to cover the new job-training and support services for GR clients only heightened his distrust of the L.A. officials.
Cedillo "used up a lot of capital to try and push this item through. It would have been nice if the county had dealt with us straight up, so that we would have known what funding was really available," he says.
"I was also real clear with these folks [L.A. County]," adds Savage, "that they had better get three supes to vote for this entire package when it comes before them, or there are going to be a lot of really pissed-off people up here in Sacramento."
Ansell says he fully expects the supervisors to approve the proposal, with the $7.3 million to pay for the added services. The formal board endorsement and organization of the new GR/CalWorks programs are slated for this fall.
Erlenbusch says he was not surprised that the county had the money to finance the CalWorks-style program for GR, considering it has a reserve of $161 million. He adds that the county could easily afford to reinstate the people cut from GR this year.
Adds Erlenbusch, "The real test will come when people finish their six months and try to qualify for the three-month extension. Then we'll have to see if the county tries to weasel out of its commitment."