July 4, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

I love me some Governor Moonbeam. And not just because one of those "job killing" government regulations he imposed during his first stint as governor is keeping me cooler this hot July morning. Brown made home builders put insulation in the attic. It seems a sane thing now, doesn't it?

I also love Governor Brown for having the guts and strength to eliminate redevelopment agencies. It is the sane thing to do. I am going to summarize all the redevelopment developments and how they affect Poway, but first I want to tell you a funny little story.

This year was a tough year for state legislators because California had a $26 billion deficit to fix. Plus, the taxes that were passed under the former governorator were due to expire at the end of June. So the state was in a deeper hole and had less revenue coming in. Jerry Brown wanted to deal with the deficit, half with cuts and half with revenue from extending Arnold's taxes. But all of the republican legislators stood firm and refused to put the tax extensions on the ballot for voters to decide. So, in the end, Brown had to settle for an all cuts budget that defers some of the deficit 'til next year.

That's not the funny story. That's a sad story. I didn't get to the funny part yet. Hang in here for a little bit, I'll get there. While the republicans were crowing about standing firm and not approving the tax extension ballot measure, unbeknown to them, something they did (or didn't do) was going to have a consequence that hurt them. One of the budget trailer bills, senate bill 89, cut the $130 million in vehicle license fees (VHF) revenues that used to be given directly to cities and counties down to about $75 million. The $75 million wouldn't go directly to cities' general funds, it would be given to cities through specific grants for law enforcement.

This change affected all cities and counties in California. But a couple of cities and at least one county really felt the impact. Orange County had been getting a bigger chunk of money from that fund to help finance their way out of bankruptcy. Since they had refinanced their bonds to pay off the bankruptcy, their funds were cut. They plan to sue to try to get it back.

Wildomar, Menifee, Eastvale and Jurapa Valley are four new cities with not a lot of money in their general funds. They VHF revenue they were planning on was about 25% of their total budgets. And now, it is gone. Ouch! That's going to hurt.

For some reason, they did not think that an "all cuts" budget would or should impact them. Local officials and Republican legislators from the area signed a letter to Governor Brown begging him to send SB89 back to the legislature and have them throw in $15 million more for them. (Note: Swanson is mayor of Wildomar.)
In her letter to the governor, Swanson wrote that the reduction to her city's budget would be "effectively forcing fiscal insolvency."

Wildomar and Menifee officials said they did not believe legislators approving the measure understood the implications for the new cities.

"At this point, I'm assuming they missed something when they rushed to put this together because of the unfairness to the four new cities," Swanson said.

School children, college students, seniors, the poor, the disabled, and, yes, newly incorporated cities, are all going to suffer from this budget. It certainly didn't have to be this painful, but Republicans refused to even let the voters decide if they wanted to soften the pain by extending taxes that were already in place. And now local Republican leaders want the budget changed just for these 4 cities and to hell with everyone else?

The irony of the request for more car tax money for 4 cities whose republican leaders refused to put the car tax extensions on the ballot was not lost on Gov. Brown. He would have loved to have an extra $15 million to help them, and millions more to help many others who are going to be hit very hard by this new budget. But he could not get 4 Republicans to give a damn about the implications to college students, the elderly, the schools, the poor and disabled or even, the courts. This budget sucks and the people who could have done something about it, only cared about themselves. Brown signed SB 89 without making any changes.

So now, the Republicans are saying Brown swiped the money from the 4 new cities in a Republican area just to spite them for not voting to put the tax extensions on the ballot. And here is where the story gets a little wacko. Jeff Stone, Riverside county supervisor, has proposed that Riverside, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, San bernardino, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa and Mono counties secede and form a new state, the 51st state to be named "Southern California".

Stone's Southern California would do away with term limits and have part-time legislators who get paid $600 a month and few benefits. The state would focus on enforcing border laws and do away with environmental regulations that protect air and water. Taxes would be minimal. Southern California, eh? Throw in a Sheriff Joe Arpaio and this could be West Arizona.

Brown's spokesman, Gil Duran, wasn't too worried about Stone's well publicized ploy. He told the Press-Enterprise, "A secessionist movement? What is this 1860?"

I must admit that I thought Jeff Stone's proposal was really wacko, an attempt to get Stone a lot of political attention among the crazy. Little did I know that there have been some secessionists around since the beginning of California statehood. According to Wikipedia, there have been 27 attempts to split up the state since 1850. The last proposal in 1992 advocated a 3-way split. None of these proposals came close to succeeding. I doubt that Stone's will get very far. But then I looked at his map. Stone's Southern Cal (not sure if I am taking liberties calling it that) wouldn't have too many liberals. But it also wouldn't have water, most of the coast, Hollywood or Silicon Valley. Most of California's wealth is in the northern half and Los Angeles. As contentious as the recent budget debate has been, I would be hesitant to show Stone's proposal to too many northern legislators. They may just find some common ground.

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