The sheriff and chief prosecutor of Orange County, Ca., warn that they will be forced to pull deputies off the streets and prosecutors out of courtrooms if voters approve a November initiative requiring them to share sales tax revenue with firefighters, the Los Angeles Times reports. The forecast presented to the county’s Board of Supervisors escalates a feud between y law enforcement and the county fire authority about how the county should divide revenue from a half-cent sales tax increase approved by state voters in 1993.
The fire authority complains that it has been excluded from the hundreds of millions of dollars the county receives each year. Since 1994, the supervisors have given 80 percent to the Sheriff’s Department and 20 percent to the district attorney. The union that represents the authority’s 750 firefighters has taken steps toward putting an initiative on the ballot that would require the county to share the money with the fire authority.
Assistant Sheriff Kim Markuson told supervisors that the sales tax revenue makes up about half of the sheriff’s budget and that sharing with firefighters would be devastating. He said the department might be forced to lay off deputies, which could lead to reduced patrols, early inmate releases, and slower crime investigations. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said a reduction in funds would force him to lay off prosecutors. “Our ability to prosecute cases would be compromised,” he said. “The people who are going to pay the price are going to be the victims of crime.”