Early this month, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly ruled in favor of Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts to rob Peter to pay Paul. Except in this case it’s the State of California being allowed to steal…..I mean borrow….money from local government redevelopment agencies to help cover the State’s massive budget deficits. The monies will be used to cover for cuts made in education funding.
As an employee at a small, non-profit that serves people with disabilities, in three Northern California counties, why should this concern me, especially when the people we help are getting slammed by other budget cuts to state programs/services? We certainly have bigger fights ahead of us (again) due to Arnold’s outrageously cruel budget revision. There are several reasons.
However one feels about the merits of redevelopment agency projects, there’s something inherently wrong with this. Money raised at the local level, through local taxes, for the purpose of a local benefit that is not being adequately addressed by the state or federal governments, is being taken to help cover for deficits at the state level. Then the Governor (with the support of many legislators) continues to refuse to discuss raising state taxes or fees when, in fact, they’re playing a shell game that further puts the onus on already financially stressed local governments. As the state makes still more cuts that burden local governments, and city officials are forced to slash local programs/services, who will citizens be more likely to scream at, but the city hall that is closest to them? Sacramento is just so far away.
One of the primary tasks of a redevelopment agency is to help stimulate employment and economic growth. This makes it more ironic that during a recession, when one focus is (supposedly) on such matters, that the Governor and his supporters undermine efforts to do so at the local level. They bemoan the overall lack of revenue coming into state coffers to fund programs/services as a result of the poor economy then use that as an excuse to further cut those programs/services. If the law requires a certain level of funding then the Governor seeks to backfill by taking from local governments or by redirecting funds designated by citizen initiatives. It seems like another big Catch-22, which is typical of Sacramento.
Redevelopment agencies also serve the less fortunate, who have been slammed from all sides in this recession by program/service cuts, rising prices and unemployment. Redevelopment agencies help provide affordable housing to low and moderate income residents, through rehabilitation loans, grants and assistance to first time home buyers. This is a major issue here in Humboldt County, and the lack of affordable housing is another major impediment to revitalizing the local economy.
Finally, my agency has experienced one (of many) direct, human effects of this redistribution of local tax dollars to Sacramento.
Our agency administers a grant program to help build residential ramps for low-income people with disabilities. In the past, the Eureka Redevelopment Agency has also offered a grant program for this purpose to Eureka residents and we were able to collaborate with them on several projects. This helped to further stretch the resources for both programs, while allowing many people with disabilities the chance to get out of their homes, live more independently and safely, and become more active members of their community. Such collaborations represent wiser use of tax dollars and grant monies and should not be undermined.
Unfortunately, with the support of the District Court, the Governor is now being allowed to do just that. A bad precedent may now become common policy and, once again, local governments get to be the fall guy.
Glenn Reed, Eureka