State lawmakers need to make sure counties receive enough funding to take responsibility for a wide range of programs, the Legislative Analyst's Office said in a report released Friday.
The 28-page report emphasizes that moving programs from the state to the counties, a process called realignment, is a complex endeavor and laws approved earlier this year are only the start of the work needed.
As part of the budget package approved for the 2011-12 fiscal year, state lawmakers agreed to move criminal justice, mental health and social service programs to local governments, primarily counties.
The report recommends the creation of a working group to come up with legislation for the 2012-13 session.
Funding remains the top priority for county leaders.
"Concern is very high," said Paul McIntosh, executive director at the California State Association of Counties. "The trust level with the legislative process has been very low the last few years."
County leaders want a constitutional guarantee of sufficient funding, McIntosh said.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who introduced the realignment proposal as part of his budget, wanted voters to decide on a constitutional funding requirement. But Brown and legislative leaders couldn't get enough support from other lawmakers to put it on the ballot.
Still, legislative leaders say they recognize that funding remains a priority for realignment to work.
"Locals need to know the rug won't be pulled out from under them," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. "We continue to stand with local law enforcement in support of a constitutional guarantee that locks in funding and other protections for both the state and the counties."
John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Pérez, added: "The speaker wants to make sure the counties have the right tools to do the job."
The state budgeted $6.3 billion for realignment this year, which will come primarily from sales tax revenue, along with vehicle license fees and a one-time shift of revenue from a tax on millionaires for mental health services.
"Especially given the weakness in the current economy, it would be wise to ensure that revenues are to be allocated in accordance with legislative priorities in the event that revenues do not reach expectations," the LAO report says.
The LAO didn't make specific funding suggestions in the report, but rather addresses issues lawmakers should consider.