By Michael Rothfeld
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca took a break from hounding criminals this morning to take aim at a different group he said needs to get with the program: state legislators.
Baca reserved double-barreled criticism for lawmakers from his own Republican Party who went to Minnesota for the GOP convention. While they're making merry, Baca said, the state budget impasse threatens to make it harder for law enforcement agencies "who have to do the real work" of dealing with the mentally ill, meth addicts and gang members.
The sheriff, speaking in Burbank at an appearance with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, compared California's lawmakers to schoolchildren, who he said will lose funds needed to teach them how to behave like adults.
"While we're talking about adult responsibilities, some of our legislators are not even in town, they're not even in the state, they're somewhere else, and as a result they're not doing their fiduciary responsibility," Baca said. "California legislators should think about the state first and their partisan politics second."
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is on the second day of a road show with local officials who are telling reporters how services will be devastated by the budget stalemate. The effort is designed to pressure legislators to approve the governor's proposed spending plan, which includes a combination of tax increases and program cuts.
The governor took some heat from reporters, one of whom asked the seven-time Mr. Olympia, "What happened to your political muscle?" because he can't get Republican legislators to go along with his plan.
"You forgot the five Mr. Universe contests and Mr. World and Mr. International," Schwarzenegger shot back, adding, "The system, the way it is set up, you cannot make the legislators pass a budget."
But most of the wrath was for the lawmakers, whose inaction Baca said would cause police and sheriffs' departments to "have a lesser capacity to deal just with the problem of meth," and could result in the mentally ill roaming the streets.
"Since we're in the gang capital of the United States, that program will get cut," he said. "The governor has proposed a sensible budget proposal. Now let's just get on with it, pass it, so the rest of us who have do the real work can get that work done."