GOP Split Over Pro-Redevelop Measure

SEPT. 17, 2010


Proposition 22 appears to be a seething two-headed snake, with strong division between supporters and opponents, and cleverly worded, but confusing ballot language.

According to Ballotpedia, language for the Proposition 22 was filed with the attorney general in October 2009, by an alliance of local government groups, including the League of California Cities.

The initiative’s stated goal is to “protect existing funds that are allocated to local government, public safety and transportation.” The initiative would prohibit the state from raiding these funds.

But Dave Titus, chief of staff for Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby (Fullerton) said that Norby opposes the measure because it will “constitutionally guarantee the expansion of redevelopment agencies as we know it today.” Titus explained, “It will embolden local redevelopment districts to continue to push on eminent domain issues and individual property rights.”

On the YES on Prop 22 Web site, the executive director of the League of California Cities, Chris McKenzie, said, “The current system is unsustainable, and we want to make sure that local services are not sacrificed because of the inability of state leaders to manage the state budget.”

Much to the dismay of some other Republicans, prominent party activist Jon Fleishman, and publisher of the Flash Report, explained his position: “The measure addresses the issue of local control, which was turned upside down after Proposition 13 passed. With the passage of Prop 13 back in the 1970’s, local county governments collect property taxes, give it to the state, which then turns around and gives it back to the counties – or doesn’t during the annual budget crises.”

Fleishman said that the initiative “corrects the mistake and unintended consequences of prop 13,” and pointed out that even the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association, the author of Prop 13, is supporting the initiative. The HJTA website states, “Prop. 22 is designed to protect local funds from being borrowed by the state government.  In recent years, as the state has faced massive budget shortfalls, Sacramento politicians have partially made up for these shortfalls by borrowing funds from local government treasuries.  Funds borrowed included money that local governments would otherwise have been available for services including transportation and public safety.” HJTA confirmed that they are supporting the measure to help local governments protect local money.

Titus said that Proposition 22 is a bigger problem than just the state keeping local government money, because it “puts a Trojan horse in the constitution to reduce property rights.” Titus and Norby reply, “it’s so easy to blame the state for every problem, and local control is a good rallying point.”

But Titus said the redevelopment mission has changed over the years. “Redevelopment used to be about just blight. Then it was blight and low-cost housing. Now it’s about jobs.” Titus said that the new explanation for supporting redevelopment is to sell job creation, “but they are government funded jobs, and not jobs created by the private sector,” said Titus. And the jobs always go to union employees.

Ballotpedia states that if the Proposition 22 is passed, when a local government entity sues the state government and wins, the state controller must automatically appropriate the funds and pay the local government.

“Since 1992, the state government has taken $11.2 billion in locally approved tax measures for the general fund,” according to Ballotpedia. “In 2009, the Legislature raided about $5 billion from city, county, transit, redevelopment and special district funds.”

The Secretary of State’s office reports contributors to the YES on Prop 22 campaign, include at least $1.5 million from the League of California Cities, $400,000 from California Alliance for Jobs, $127,000 from the California Transit Association, and several law firms including $30,000 from Sacramento’s McDonough, Holland and Allen, which closed its doors on September 3.

Opponents of Proposition 22, including the California Teachers Association, say that Proposition 22 will give money to redevelopment agencies at the expense of the state budget and the core services that are supported by the state budget, such as public education.

The secretary of state reports that opponents’ contributions are from the California Teachers Association, $250,000, and the California Firefighters have given $127,000.

According to Ballotpedia, the official Proposition 22 ballot title reads “Prohibits the State from Borrowing or Taking Funds Used for Transportation, Redevelopment, or Local Government Projects and Services. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.”

The official summary reads, “Prohibits the state, even during a period of severe financial hardship, from delaying the distribution of tax revenues for transportation, redevelopment or local government projects and services.”

And the estimated fiscal impact? “Due to restrictions on state authority over fuel and property taxes, the state would have to take alternative actions — probably in the range of $1 billion to several billion dollars annually. This would result in both reductions in general fund program spending and/or increases in state revenues of those amounts, and comparable increases in transportation and redevelopment resources.”

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