SAN DIEGO–San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and a number of local government, transportation, business, public safety and public transit leaders rallied Wednesday outside city hall to kick off a statewide signature-gathering campaign to qualify the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act of 2010 (AG Initiative #: 09-0063) for the November 2010 ballot.
The measure closes loopholes to prevent the state from taking, diverting or borrowing local government, transportation, and public transit funds.
Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services, the coalition sponsoring the ballot measure, will collect more than 1.1 million signatures to ensure it meets the required 694,354 valid signatures needed to qualify a constitutional amendment for the statewide ballot.
Wednesday’s kick off event in San Diego is the first of more than half a dozen similar rallies held statewide this week. Hundreds of local government, public safety, business, and labor leaders have signed up to assist in a massive volunteer signature gathering effort.
“Sacramento politicians can’t continue to use local funds as a backfill for state budget deficits,” said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. “Voters have made it clear they want local government funds to be spent on locally delivered services, yet Sacramento keeps digging its hands in our pockets to cover their deficit. The resulting trickle-down effect makes it impossible for us to do our budgets and puts at risk the critical services our residents depend on like public safety and transportation improvements. Already, we’ve had to cut $83M from our budget and we were able to do so without cutting city services. But these challenging economic times and further threats by the state would make it difficult for us to continue balancing our budget without cuts in services. We need this ballot measure so we can put a stop to state raids and borrowing of local taxpayer dollars and protect vital local services.”
California voters have repeatedly and overwhelmingly passed measures to restrict state raids of local government funds, as well as to dedicate gasoline taxes to transportation and public transit improvements and services. Despite this, state elected officials have exploited loopholes in the law and used legally questionable tactics to borrow and raid more than $5 billion in local government, transit and redevelopment funds this year alone, and billions more in past years. Coupled with the downturn in the economy and falling local government revenues, state raids and borrowing of local funds are contributing to severe cutbacks in local police and fire services, parks, libraries, street and road repair, public transit and other local services.
Cities throughout San Diego County have had to make mid-year budget adjustments as a result of lower sales and property tax revenues. The countywide average decline of sales taxes was 13%. Many cities have responded by leaving positions vacant or laying off employees in departments throughout the city. The City of San Diego recently laid off 200 employees. The City of Escondido lost 11 emergency medical technicians. Also, the City of Chula Vista had to eliminate 17 public safety positions due to budget cuts. And this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of countywide cuts and layoffs.
If passed, the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act of 2010 would:
• Prohibit the state from borrowing local government property tax funds which are vital for public safety and other local services.
• Prohibit the state from borrowing or taking gasoline taxes which are dedicated to transportation and transit improvements and services, including the state sales tax on gasoline (Prop. 42 funds), and the Highway User Tax on gasoline (HUTA).
• Prevent the taking of locally levied taxes, including parcel taxes, sales taxes, and other locally imposed taxes that are currently dedicated to cities, counties and special districts.
• Prohibit the state from taking, borrowing or redirecting existing funding for public transit, including existing taxes on gas and “spillover” funds dedicated to the Public Transportation Account.
• Add additional constitutional protections to prevent the state from raiding redevelopment funds or shifting redevelopment funds to other state purposes.
Cities, counties and special districts provide the vast majority of law enforcement, fire protection, emergency response and public safety services in California. In fact, on average, 65% of city discretionary budgets go to fund police and fire programs and services and more than half of county discretionary budgets go to fund law enforcement, emergency medical and public health programs and services.
In addition, gas taxes paid at the pump are supposed to be dedicated to transportation and transit improvement projects like road safety repairs, congestion relief, and maintaining and expanding mass transit. Despite this, in the past few years alone the state has raided billions of dollars in public transit funding, and has threatened to borrow or outright take billions of dollars including Prop. 42 and HUTA gas tax funds that are supposed to fund transportation and transit improvements.
“California voters have repeatedly supported statewide measures that dedicate the gas taxes we pay at the pump for transportation and transit projects,” said Vista Council Member Bob Campbell, Chair of North County Transit District Board of Directors. “Despite this, year after year the Legislature exploits every loophole it can find to borrow or raid these critical funds. Sometimes the theft of these resources is done knowing it’s against the law, but since there’s no punishment, the shell game in Sacramento continues. This measure will once and for all protect gas taxes from future raids and insure they are used to improve our roads, highways, buses, shuttles and commuter rail systems – just as the voters intended.”
San Diego Council Member Anthony Young concluded: “We’re confident that Californians will approve this measure to protect local taxpayer funds and transportation services from continued state raids. We encourage all voters to seek out the petition and sign it to place this important measure on the ballot.”