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First 5 LA Commission Prepares to Sue State Over “Money Grab”

April 15, 2011

LOS ANGELES – The First 5 LA Commission is about to get a bill from the state for $424 million. That's how much the commission stands to lose from legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month that takes $1 billion from statewide early childhood programs to help balance the state budget.

Francisco Oaxaca, the commission's director of public affairs, says the cuts are illegal and go against the will of the voters. So, First 5 LA will join Orange, Fresno, Madera and Merced county commissions, in filing lawsuits to stop the state action before that big bill arrives in the mail, says Oaxaca.

"This is a brand new revenue stream that was created. So, the state is in essence taking funds that were made available through a separate tax on tobacco products to be used locally, and taking them to Sacramento."

Oaxaca says only the voters have the authority to approve a state takeover of the funds, which provide services to young children.

"Everything from early preschool programs, health screening programs, dental programs, family literacy, school readiness programs to prepare children to enter kindergarten and be ready to learn - just a whole wide array of programs."

Also this week, the First 5 Riverside Commission authorized a lawsuit against the state. California's First 5 Commissions are funded through a Proposition 10 tobacco tax approved by voters in 1998.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA