Modesto council sees 'disaster' if state draws from cities

Modesto's message to Sacramento: We're not your piggy bank.

Trouble is, Sacramento doesn't have to listen.

The Modesto City Council on Tuesday declared its opposition to any state budget fixes that rely on borrowing from municipal governments.

Council members foresee "a disaster" if the state leans on cities.

Modesto is balancing its own budget shortfall by preparing $8.9 million in cuts and asking its unions for $5.8 million in concessions.

It could lose another $3.4 million if the Legislature follows a budget-fixing plan Gov. Schwarzenegger outlined last week before voters rejected a slate of ballot measures that were intended to reduce the state's deficit.

That kind of red ink could lead to closing fire stations, laying off police officers or inflicting deeper hits to Modesto parks, according to information city leaders weighed last week in budget hearings.

Borrowing cash from city governments "will put a very severe hardship on us when it comes to the decisions we'll have to make, when we're laying off safety personnel ... because the state is unable to manage their own budget," Mayor Jim Ridenour said.

Councilwoman Janice Keating acknowledged the city's resolution might not have much practical impact for Sacramento lawmakers struggling with a $21 billion state deficit.

She voted to support the declaration, however.

In other business, the council voted to continue talks about building a new water treatment system with Hughson, Ceres and Turlock. Council members did not comment on their votes.

The cities want to use water under the control of the Turlock Irrigation District. Modesto wants to participate so it can deliver more water to homes south of the Tuolumne River. Modesto's share of construction costs likely would total more than $50 million.

Modesto is finishing work on a $77 million water treatment plant that is to be operated by the Modesto Irrigation District. MID and TID water agreements hold that that MID water can't be used south of the river and TID water can't be delivered north of the river.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at or 578-2366.