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Redevelopment advocates fight back

Organizations that represent California’s cities and redevelopment agencies have filed a lawsuit challenging recently passed legislation that all but eliminates  redevelopment as a separate entity.

The League of California Cities, California Redevelopment Association and the cities of San Jose and Union City filed will challenge in the bill as unconstitutional in the state Supreme Court, citing voter-approved Proposition 22 which barred state raids on local funds.

Read on for their joint release sent out a few minutes ago.

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the League of California Cities (League), the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) and the cities of San Jose and Union City filed a petition with the California Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of AB 1X 26 and AB 1X 27, the two redevelopment bills passed as part of the state budget in June. AB 1X 26 eliminates redevelopment agencies. AB 1X 27 allows agencies to continue to exist (albeit on life-support) if they agree to pay their share of $1.7 billion this year and $400 million annually in perpetuity.

The lawsuit also requested the California Supreme Court to issue a stay to prevent the legislation from going into effect until the Court can rule on the merits of these claims.

The central claim in the lawsuit is that AB 1X 26/27 violate Proposition 22, the constitutional amendment passed by 61% of California voters in November 2010, just eight months ago. Proposition 22 was passed by voters to “conclusively and completely prohibit State politicians in Sacramento from seizing, diverting, shifting, borrowing, transferring, suspending, or otherwise taking or interfering with” revenue dedicated to local government. The revenues protected by Proposition 22 specifically include the annual increments of property taxes allocated to California’s 400 redevelopment agencies.

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Education online town hall set for tonight

California Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson will participate in an Internet town hall on education starting at 7 p.m. tonight.

Torlakson, a former state senator and assemblyman from Antioch, will join state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and California Community College Chanceller Jack Scott in a live, online discussion of the state’s severe financial crisis and it will hit schools unless voters approve tax extensions.

To submit questions and watch the town hall, click here.

Read on for the full news release. Continue Reading

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Controller will withhold legislators’ pay

California Controller John Chiang will withhold state legislators’ paychecks starting June 16 if they fail to approve a balanced budget within the next two weeks.

The provision is part of Proposition 25, which voters approved in November. Some analysts had concluded that Legislature’s March budget satisfied the requirement but Chiang disagrees.

Here’s what the controller had to say today:

SACRAMENTO – In response to recent questions regarding the impact of Proposition 25, Controller John Chiang today announced he will permanently withhold Legislators’ salary and per diem beginning on June 16 if they fail to approve a balanced budget in the next two weeks.

“Presenting the Governor with a balanced budget by the Constitutional deadline is the most important, if not most difficult, job of the California Legislature,” Chiang said.  “In passing Proposition 25 last November, voters clearly stated they expect their representatives to make the difficult decisions needed to resolve any budget shortfalls by the mandatory deadline, or be penalized.  I will enforce the voters’ demand.”

Proposition 25, titled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” was approved by voters November 2, 2010.  The initiative lowered the vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.  It also required members of the Legislature to forfeit their salary and reimbursement for travel and living expenses incurred from June 16 until “the day that the budget bill is presented to the Governor.”  Payments forfeited will not be paid retroactively.

Recently, questions have been raised regarding whether the budget passed by the Legislature had to be balanced, or if the budget bills passed in March would suffice.  The Controller’s analysis of these issues concludes Proposition 25 cannot be read in a vacuum, and must take into account the provisions of Proposition 58 (passed by voters on March 2, 2004), the intent language found in Proposition 25, and the voter information and campaign materials upon which the voters relied.

Proposition 58 states, “[T]he Legislature may not send to the Governor for consideration, nor may the Governor sign into law, a budget bill that would appropriate from the General Fund, for that fiscal year, a total amount that …exceeds General Fund revenues for that fiscal year estimated as of the date of the budget bill’s passage.”  Because Propositions 58 and 25 overlap in the same section of the Constitution and address the same topic, they must be read together.  A copy of the Controller’s full legal analysis can be found here .


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Brown unveils budget, talks begin

Read Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget here, but don’t expect any cheery news.

It contains big cuts in everything from childcare subsidies to higher education.

And expect a lot of talk around this innocent-sounding word: Realignment.

It refers to Brown’s interest in shifting responsibility away from the state to local government. The idea is to send the money chiefly to counties that the state spends on programs such as incarceration of short-term prisoners, individuals on probation and court security. In return, local governments will decide how much they want to pay to provide the services.

Brown’s plan freezes redevelopment agencies going forward but keeps intact existing projects. The money would instead go to local agencies and schools.

The success of Brown’s proposal depends a great deal on whether or not voters will agree, probably in June, to extend taxes five years.  First, though, Brown must persuade legislators to place the measure on the ballot, a very difficult proposition given Democrats’ unhappiness with cuts to social services and Republicans’ desire to avoid tax hikes.

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Schwarzenegger delares fiscal emergency

If it’s July, it must be another California budget crisis, which brings those beloved IOUs and another round of furlough Fridays.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a financial emergency and reinstituted state worker furloughs today, the latest in the ongoing feud between the governor and legislators over yet another unadopted budget.

Read the full news release below:

Gov. Schwarzenegger Declares State of Emergency, Issues Executive Order to Impose Furloughs Due to Cash Crisis Caused By Budget Impasse

Governor Schwarzenegger issued an order today directing state agencies to reinstitute furlough Fridays until a new budget is in place. The order for state workers to take three furlough days per month will take effect starting August 1 and continue until a new budget is enacted and the Department of Finance certifies that the state has enough cash to meet its obligations through the end of the Fiscal Year.

“Without a budget in place that addresses our $19 billion budget deficit, every day of delay brings California closer to a fiscal meltdown,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “The State Controller has indicated he could be forced to issue IOUs starting in August in order to avert a cash crisis. Our cash situation leaves me no choice but to once again furlough state workers until the legislature produces a budget I can sign.”

The Governor’s furlough order continues to exempt CAL FIRE and California Highway Patrol from furloughs. In addition, the Governor’s new order is more narrowly drafted to exempt revenue generating agencies and quasi-public entities with non-general fund resources.

Read the full proclamation below.

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Enviros blast Arnold’s oil-for-parks plan

Amid the cacaphony of outrage we’re hearing today over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state budget proposals, environmentalists say they’re aghast at his plan to drop General Fund support for California’s state parks and replace it with money from controversial, not-yet-approved new oil and gas leases off the Santa Barbara coast.

They say Schwarzenegger is trying to set up a false dilemma by pitting the interests of one of California’s greatest natural resources – its coastline – against another – its parks.

Coastwalk California board president Fran Gibson said her group strongly opposes any further General Fund cuts for state parks, which already have been whacked in recent years. “It is unconscionable to leverage the PXP project against state parks in this way and use our coast and state parks as pawns in his budget game,” she said. “Both are critical natural public assets for current and future generations of Californians.”

California Coastal Protection Network Director Susan Jordan said the governor’s hypocrisy “cannot be overstated.

“He would rather reverse forty years of bi-partisan California state policy against offshore oil drilling to push through a pet project over 100 statewide groups have joined to oppose rather than require oil companies extracting oil from our state’s sea beds pay a severance tax – their fair share to taxpayers for doing business in California,” Jordan said. “We are the only oil producing state in America that does not tax extraction of gas and oil on lands owned by the state. This would bring in more than $1.5 billion annually to the state’s General Fund.”

And the California State Parks Foundation rejects the governor’s plan as “the wrong idea at the wrong time,” said president Elizabeth Goldstein.

“It’s noteworthy that the Governor has finally come around to the side of park advocates and park users in California by proposing to fund state parks, instead of cutting them as he’s proposed in the last two budget cycles,” she said. “But pegging the fiscal future of the state park system to offshore oil drilling sets up an unacceptable tradeoff between coastal protection and park preservation, and attempts to provide a band-aid for our state park system yet again. Band-aids are not what’s needed; what’s needed for state parks is a reliable, sustainable funding source, and CSPF and our partners are working toward that in the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010.”

That’s a proposed ballot measure which would create an $18-per-vehicle surcharge to raise the $130 million per year needed to support the state park system; all day-use access would become free of charge. Proponents must gather valid signatures from at least 433,971 registered voters by May 28 in order to put the measure on November’s ballot.