Pleasanton Weekly

News - October 29, 2010

Prop. 22: Depends on who you talk to

Cities vs. counties over state's right to 'borrow' municipal funds

by Jeb Bing

City and county representatives are sparring over the benefits of Proposition 22, the Nov. 2 measure that would block the state from borrowing or appropriating funds from city treasuries and redevelopment districts.

Although the proposition is meant to keep money for redevelopment, transportation and local projects and services in the hands of local government, county officials now say it could mean cuts to other parts of the state budget, such as school funding and money for senior citizens.

John Gioia, chairman of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and chairman of the Urban County Caucus, said the initiative "does not serve the interests of local government."

But local officials including Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Chief Jim Miguel have endorsed Prop. 22.

"Voters have the opportunity to prevent state politicians from aiding local taxpayer funds that are slated for vital services such as emergency 911 response, police, fire, libraries, parks, transportation improvements and more," Hosterman said. "I encourage all Pleasanton voters to carefully study Proposition 22 because it can make an important impact on our quality of life for years to come."

For many years elected officials in cities have watched Sacramento use legal loopholes to siphon billions of taxpayer dollars designated for local government and transportation services. In 2009, the state took $5 billion in local revenues to balance its own budget.

"The billions of dollars taken by state raids have forced deep cuts in local services that residents depend on every day," Hosterman said. "In fact, since 1992-93, the state has shifted approximately $100 million in property tax revenue away from the city of Pleasanton to fund its own structural deficit. This loss of revenue could have been used to improve roads, public safety services, and maintain parks, libraries and recreation centers."

But Gioia said that Prop. 22 would lock in particular areas of the government at the expense of others.

"Cuts in other areas are going to be much deeper to achieve the savings," Gioia said. "Ultimately, this measure also puts pressure on raising taxes."

Among those cuts would be money to county governments, which he said depend largely on state money to operate. Gioia said the Contra County Fire District could lose $12 million in state funding if Prop 22 passes.

Gioia was joined by Liz Kniss of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, who said counties have already seen a 12% cut in funding. Kniss said Prop. 22 would make counties and cities adversaries.

Kathy Long, chairwoman of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, said the proposition would have "unintended consequences," specifically that county funding for health and human services and public safety would be cut.

The three county officials, along with Matt Rexroad of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, urged people to vote No on Prop 22, calling it ballot box budgeting.

"When you do this kind of lack of real reform, lack of real dialog one that has a catchy title," Long said, "it's disingenuous to all the voters."

But Hosterman said that Prop. 22 is a straightforward measure that simply ensures that existing local tax dollars and existing gas taxes cannot be taken away by the state Legislature again.

"This past year, Pleasanton has had to defer the replacement of aging fire equipment due to the threat of further state takeaways," she said. "Proposition 22 would legally keep locally generated tax dollars in our community. In addition, Prop. 22 will prevent the state from taking or diverting gas taxes we pay at the pump that voters dedicated to transportation improvements such as pothole repairs, traffic congestion relief and mass transit."

She continued, "More importantly, during these tough economic times Prop. 22 will not increase taxes. This bill is supported by a broad and diverse coalition of public safety, business, taxpayer groups, labor, community groups, senior and local governments groups including AAA Northern California, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Group, California Chamber of Commerce, the California Library Association and more than 300 California cities and towns, including Pleasanton."

Reporter Glenn Wohltmann contributed to this report.

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