Republicans Block Redevelopment Vote

MARCH 17, 2011


With many predicting that yesterday’s budget vote in the Legislature was just going to be a drill, lawmakers surprised everyone and actually cut $7.4 billion from various state programs. It was an attempt to begin shoring up the state’s $26.6 billion deficit.

But it wasn’t easy, and the cuts weren’t without controversy and flaring tempers.

Senate and Assembly Democratic leaders spent more time than not in closed-door meetings with Gov. Jerry Brown attempting to wrangle enough votes to eliminate redevelopment agencies, as proposed in Brown’s budget, to save the state $1.7 billion.

It had been reported that Republican lawmakers were going to be using CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) as the negotiating tool and threat to withhold their support from Brown’s budget and tax increase extensions by demanding a rewriting of the state environmental law. However, some Capitol staffers yesterday said Republican demands were “dead in the water.”

If yesterday’s votes are any sign, Republican demands aren’t quite dead yet, but could be headed for no-man’s land.

The demand, pushed by the “GOP 5” Senate Republicans in private talks with the governor, would put an end to environmental lawsuits against telecommunications companies, with an eye to exempting future development projects from CEQA requirements.

One energy expert said that the negotiating demand was being pushed by AT&T, looking for specific exemptions to the environmental act.

However, it was the vote to eliminate redevelopment agencies that had many scratching their heads. Only one Republican, Fullerton Assemblyman Chris Norby, voted in support of eliminating redevelopment agencies. While most Republicans voted “no” on the elimination, three Republicans did not vote at all: Assemblymen Jim Nielsen (Biggs), Allan Mansoor (Costa Mesa) and Katcho Achajidian (San Luis Obispo).

As for why Republicans did not vote to support the elimination of the agencies, several Capitol sources said that Brown’s proposal is a “poison pill” in the budget. “Even with elimination right now, redevelopment agencies will just come back again,” one source reported.

“That’s like saying that I’m going to ignore my ant problem because if I get rid of them, roaches will take their place,” another Capitol employee said. Because of the pending budget votes, no one I spoke with wanted to speak on the record.

Other sources inside the Capitol say that the three Republicans who did not vote on redevelopment yesterday may still be holding out — preventing the final vote needed for elimination of the costly and controversial agencies. But pressure is mounting and sources say that Achajidian and Mansoor are starting to cave in and will support continuing the redevelopment funding. The vote will probably be taken up again in today’s session.

Last week I spoke with Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue, who said that there are three very simple things Republicans want: Small business regulatory reform, a spending cap and pension reform.

But by far the biggest challenge facing the governor is getting the four Republican votes he needs to put his tax extension initiative on the June ballot. While the “GOP 5” Senate Republicans have been meeting and talking with Brown, it appears they are holding firm on their demands that include a spending cap, tax code reform and a rewrite of California’s environmental law. Pension reform is not part of their negotiations with Brown.

While Democrats tallied the budget cuts yesterday at $7.4 billion, Republicans disagreed, and said the cuts targeted the wrong parts of government.

Program budget cuts include reductions in CALWORKS welfare-to-work grants, co-pay requirements for Medi-Cal patients, services for the developmentally disabled and the shifting of funds which will result in much less money for local transit, childhood development and mental health programs.

“It focuses reductions on community services rather than overhead and bureaucracy,” said Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), vice chairman of the budget committee. Specifically, Huff was critical that actual services are being targeted instead of vast administrative waste, agency girth and the bloated costs to operate state agencies outside of services for the people.

Tags assigned to this article:
budgetCEQAenvironmentJerry BrownKaty Grimes

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