With a new fiscal year beginning on Friday and a budget in place, state lawmakers may be breathing a sigh of relief, but local leaders aren’t feeling as relaxed.
The budget package that makes up a series of bills, all of which were signed and finalized on Thursday, calls for the displacement of redevelopment agencies, steering $1.7 billion to the state when the fiscal year begins Friday.
The $85.9 billion budget—which was approved in both houses on Tuesday without Republican support and is expected to be signed entirely by Brown soon—relies on $4 billion more in state revenue and deep cuts to higher education and courts. Of the budget bills approved by the Legislature late Tuesday, two seek to change the way redevelopment works in California.
Assembly Bills 1X-26 and 1X-27 seek to restructure redevelopment agencies—which allow cities to develop communities in blighted areas—in a way that diverts money to the state.
Though the League of California Cities—an association of city officials—plans to sue the state by the end of the week over the two redevelopment bills, many cities made moves in an attempt to protect as many local dollars from Brown’s initial proposal to completely eliminate redevelopment agencies.
Republican leaders who represent East County communities at the state level aren’t happy with the budget.
Sen. Joel Anderson (R-El Cajon) blasted Democrats for passing the budget with a simple majority.
“This Democrat-controlled budget throws the most vulnerable, the weakest and our children under the bus,” he said. “They have installed funding ‘trigger’ cuts that close classrooms but prohibit even one public employee from being laid off.”
On the other side of the aisle, State Assemblymember Marty Block (D - 78th District) said that while he is troubled by deep cuts to higher education, he is optimistic that the budget represents a step in the right direction.
“Since Assembly and Senate Republicans refused to let the people vote on revenue extensions, legislative Democrats came together to make the tough decisions and pass a balanced budget before the start of the new fiscal year,” said Block in an e-mail. “The difficult choices in this budget reflect the stark realities of the state’s fiscal situation – none more unsettling than the deep reductions made to our colleges and universities. While the results of these cuts are troubling, this balanced budget puts California on the road to sound fiscal recovery.”
While the full fiscal impact of the budget is still being analyzed at the county level, Supervisor Dianne Jacob was also not pleased with certain parts of the budget initially, which she said contains “several unfair and risky gimmicks.”
“Topping my list of concerns is the transfer of prisoners from the state to the county, and especially whether the funding to house those prisoners will actually flow from the state. The state has a lousy track record with regard to so-called realignment funds,” said Jacob in an e-mail statement.
She continued, “Another problematic part of the budget is the $150 parcel tax for rural properties, purportedly for fire protection. This is tax is unjust and absolutely unwarranted. I question whether it’s legal. It double taxes rural residents for absolutely no reason other than robbery by the state to sloppily plug a budget hole.”
She said that the budget is unfair to people in rural areas, who already pay taxes via property taxes, and often via voter-approved special assessments via their local fire agencies.
“The public should know that county government has proactively positioned itself to deal with the impacts of the state’s mess, but we will not be picking up the tab for state-mandated services that the state has turned it back on,” Jacob said.
Though the budget was approved by Democrats, the party hasn't expressed complete contentment with the results, as their original budget was vetoed by the governor on June 16.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg said, “This is not a budget to celebrate. There’s a lot of pain here for a lot of people. We enacted a plan that preserves our opportunity for economic recovery, and look forward to giving Californians the chance to vote on making that recovery even stronger.”
The budget addresses a deficit that once topped $26.6 billion and passed both houses without a Republican vote. This is the sixth time in two decades that the budget was approved on time, largely due to Proposition 25, which was approved by voters in November and allows lawmakers to pass a no-tax-hike budget with a simple majority.
Though the deferment of redevelopment funds to local schools is what lawmakers are promising, the budget still postpones about $3 billion in payments to schools.
To read the budget bills, visit the Legislature’s website here.