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We can really send a message to Sacramento

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POSTED June 13, 2010 1:53 a.m.
Meg Whitman is right.

She can’t stop the out-of-control spending in Sacramento without our help.

And the best part is you can do it without even voting for Whitman or Jerry Brown.

All you have to do is cast a vote for the ballot measure submitted by Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers & Vital Services on the Nov. 2 ballot.

A coalition of fire, police, and labor organizations as well as cities, counties, water agencies, taxpayer groups, community groups, transit agencies, business groups, housing agencies, and local elected officials submitted 1.1 million signatures well in advance of the June 24 deadline for the Secretary of State - who happens to be Jerry Brown - to certify measures for the November ballot. The group was required to secure 694,354 valid signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment for the statewide ballot.

The state since 1989 has a track record of raiding the coffers of local government agencies whenever they spend more money than they collect. Manteca alone has lost $25 million to the state during the past 21 years. Rarely does the state keep its promise to repay the funds that they “borrow.”

Last year when state leaders actively talked about taking all local gas taxes that are used to maintain county and city roads so Sacramento could avoid laying off state workers, local leaders drew a line in the sand. Not only did their pressure get the California Legislature to back off but they went ahead and started circulating the ballot proposition to avoid another money grab.

California voters repeatedly - and overwhelming - in past years have voted to protect local revenue from the clutches of Sacramento money grabbers. Each time the state has found a way to get around the voter driven constitutional amendment by finding another word to describe their thievery.

The latest measure lists every possible way the state could take money and prohibits it from happening.

If passed, the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation 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.

• 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 diesel fuel 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.

It effectively stops the state from forcing even deeper cuts into local services such as police and fire protection.

Whitman’s presence in the November election is bound to help pass the measure.

Whitman is already a lightning rod for frustrated state workers who fear they will lose their jobs. It is highly likely they will funnel everything they can into Brown’s campaign in a bid to stop Whitman.

What they should really fear isn’t Whitman but Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers & Vital Services.

The measure - if adopted - will effectively cut-off whoever is governor or the legislature from raiding local funds to avoid making cutbacks at the state level.

Local government essentially has been doing all the bleeding cutting back on police, fire, parks workers, and street maintenance crews and cutting back other services while the state kept chugging along thanks to raids on local tax sources.

Last year, as an example, the state reduced its workforce by just 1,667 workers. That’s less than what Los Angeles alone cut. It gets worse. The state hired over 21,000 workers in 2009. Unlike cities and counties the state did not leave positions of any consequence vacant when workers retired or quit. Some local government agencies started facing the music two years ago. The rest woke up and smelled the proverbial coffee last year. The state chose to keep spending going near full throttle in Sacramento. While most cities have a lower projected deficit this year compared to last - Manteca as an example has a $3.8 million working deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1 compared to $11.8 million going into the current fiscal year - the state deficit is now at $21 million or more than it was a year ago.

The reason is simple. Instead of making tough decisions and cutting back jobs and rethinking how the work of government is done, the state put in place tax increases, accelerated the collection of income taxes a year ahead of schedule plus took money from local government.

This election could indeed change part of the way Sacramento does business.
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