In recent years, counties and local government have had significant quarrel with Sacramento’s penchant for pillaging revenues so much so that you might wonder if a revival of the Bear Flag revolt is in the works.
Now, Senate Democrats in Sacramento may increase the burden to municipalities by “realigning” state government and shifting some services to its counties.
Senate President Pro Team Darrell Steinberg said today the proposal would help already struggling counties pay for some of the additional programs and help lower California’s $19 billion deficit, although he did not disclose a cost-savings estimate.
Under the plan, according to an AP story, juvenile parole services and low-level jailing would be handled by counties along with administration of CalWORKS, among other things. But, according to the Sacramento Bee, under the plan counties would be taking up 25 percent of the costs of programs such as CalWORKS. Alameda County, for one, is struggling to maintain social services for many of its residents hit particularly hard by the recession. The county’s 11 percent unemployment figures in May are nearly 2 percent higher than the national average. In addition, it is also suffering from its own steep budget cuts to balance huge deficits at the county level.
To pay for the increased work at the county level, Democrats propose borrowing from the state’s $9 billion bottle deposits fund and paying it back by betting against future oil tax revenue over the next 20 years. The Los Angeles Times reports, though, the state’s chief credit card-holder Treasurer Bill Lockyer believes borrowing against taxes to balance the budget runs afoul of Proposition 58 and Democratic nominee for governor Jerry Brown last week agreed with the opinion. Lockyer told the L.A. Times flatly, “We can’t borrow without a clean bond opinion from the attorney general. Our role is simple: We get an opinion, we can borrow. We don’t get an opinion, we can’t borrow.”
The Democrats plan also calls for permanent reinstatement of the vehicle license fee to help counties pay for the increase in services and allow local governments to lower the two-thirds threshold for voters to enact tax increases by ballot measure. San Leandro’s likely sales tax measure needs two-thirds approval to pass this November, something that is far from assured in a poor economic such as this.