Paul McIntosh is the Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties. For more, visit The County Voice.

I had the privilege of participating in the “supersession” discussion panel at the American Society for Public Administration’s (ASPA) annual meeting in Santa Clara County this morning.  The session focused on “State and Local Fiscal Challenges” and what opportunities there were to address them today. 

I spoke about challenges facing counties throughout the United States, but focused mainly on California.  You can view a copy of the slides I used for the presentation here.

While counties throughout the United States are facing tough times, California is where the real horror story lies.  With negative growth in property taxes for the first time in the post-World War II era, increased demand for services by an unemployed and/or homeless population, California counties face an unprecedented time.  But the real crux of the crisis California counties face is the dysfunction of the State of California and its inability to confront the fiscal challenges is faces.

Counties are the program partners of the state in a wide variety of areas.  In fact, California counties provide more direct services to California’s 38 million residents than any other level of government.  Given this inter-related governance structure, counties suffer when the State fails to adequately address fiscal realities.  For the past three years, the dysfunction has been at historic levels.

The level of deficits in California, and the stalemates occurring between the Legislature and the Administration over how to address those deficits, have been unprecedented and unmatched around the country during the past three years.  Given the proposals made by Governor Schwarzenegger for the 2010-11 fiscal year, and the reception those proposals received in the Legislature, there is little that gives rise of optimism that this year’s budget battles will be any different.

The comments and questions following the panel presentation were insightful as to just how extreme the situation in California is viewed by the rest of the country.  Many were incredulous at the inability of the Administration and Legislature to put partisan squabbles aside and deal directly with critical issues facing California’s citizens.  There was also concern expressed about how this may bode for the rest of the country.

For more, visit The County Voice, a place where CSAC, county officials and stakeholders can voice their thoughts on governance and issues that impact California’s 58 counties.