Saturday, 22 June 2024

Measure to stop state raids of local government, transportation funds qualifies for ballot

A measure to stop the state from raiding important transportation and local government funds will go before voters this November.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said Tuesday that the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act of 2010 has qualified for this November's ballot.

The measure is meant to prevent the state from taking, diverting or borrowing local government, transportation and public transit funds by closing loopholes in state laws, according to Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services, the coalition supporting the initiative.

Protected funds would include the Highway User Tax on gasoline, which funds transportation-related improvements and services for local governments; locally levied taxes, such as parcel, sales, utility user or transit occupancy taxes; Public Transportation Account revenues dedicated to public transit; and create constitutional protections to prevent the state from raiding redevelopment funds or shifting redevelopment funds to other state purposes, according to the coalition.

Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities and co-chair of Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services, said they will now turn their attention to educating the voters to support this initiative to protect funding for the vital local services that they rely upon.

California voters have passed measures in previous elections to restrict state raids of local government funds, as well as to dedicate gasoline taxes to transportation and public transit improvements and services, proponents of the bill have pointed out.

However, state politicians have exploited loopholes in the law and used what opponents allege are “legally questionable tactics” to borrow and raid approximately $5 billion in local government, transit and redevelopment funds in the 2009-10 budget cycle and billions more in past years.

The measure is supported by a coalition of local government, transportation, business, public safety, taxpayer, labor and public transit leaders. Not listed among the endorsers are the county of Lake and the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake.

However, County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox told Lake County News this week that he supports any measures of this kind that protect local government revenues.

“It's unfortunate that it requires ballot initiatives like this to protect local revenues, but if that's what it takes, so be it,” he said.

This particular measure, he pointed out, was driven by cities more than counties.

“Our only concern is that the state will find new ways to shift costs to counties if this measure passes, but if it does pass I would hope that it sends a strong message to state officials to stop balancing the state budget on the backs of local government,” he said.

Cox said that, at this point, cities, counties, special districts and redevelopment agencies all need protection from state raids on their revenues, and the initiative would provide another layer of needed protection.

“What a sad commentary on the dysfunctional nature of our state government that these type of initiatives are necessary,” he said.

The raids on local funds – happening at the same time as the economic downturn – are contributing to deep cuts in local services, everything from police and fire to street repair, libraries and parks, according to groups who support the measure.

“Reduced revenues are putting a strain on front-line fire protection, emergency response and public safety services,” Sheldon Gilbert, fire chief of the Alameda County Fire Department and president of the California Fire Chiefs Association, said in a written statement on the measure. “We must pass this measure to prevent future state actions that erode local public safety funding.”

Ron Cottingham, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, said cities and counties throughout California have been forced to make “devastating cuts to law enforcement and other public safety services,” which he said have been due in part to state budgetary raids.

Jim Earp, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs and co-chair of Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services, said the measure will “once and for all protect gas taxes from future raids and insure they are used to improve our roads, highways and transit systems – just like the voters intended.”

“Local transit agencies up and down the state are cutting routes for buses, shuttles and commuter trains as a direct result of continued state raids of local transit funds,” said Josh Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association and co-chair of the coalition.

He said the cuts are creating “real hardships” for working families who have no other mode of transportation to and from work, school, health care appointments and other life responsibilities. “The decisions made in Sacramento are harming real people who rely on local services. Enough is enough. ”

McKenzie said his group is confident the voters will pass the measure in November.

Bowen's office reported that the measure needed 694,354 valid signatures – which is equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2006 general election. Supporters submitted more than 1.1 million signatures.

This was the fifth measure Bowen has certified for the November ballot, according to her office.

For more information visit

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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