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How about getting SACLIES on your personalized plate?
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Keep Lake Tahoe Blue.

It’s actually more like, “Keep Sacramento Green.”

News that the state has raided the special environmental license fee funds over the past several years to balance the budget is proof positive you can’t trust Sacramento to do the right thing with a tax or a fee.

People who pay $40 a year extra for environmental plates such as the Keep Lake Tahoe Blue do so because the state through the Department of Motor Vehicles has advertised that 100 percent of the money will go toward the Lake Tahoe Conservancy. The non-profit is working to protect Lake Tahoe.

Likewise, $40 extra sent with DMV renewals for those with Memorial plates is designated specifically to help California law enforcement fight terrorism and to provide scholarships for the children of 9-11 victims from California.

Instead, we find that the state has been “borrowing” the money to balance the budget with the “promise” that it will be paid back.

Thanks to the Associated Press that had to dig through state documents, we now know that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as Gov. Jerry Brown “borrowed” at least $3 million from just one of the various special license plate funds

It’s nice that Brown has ordered an audit of all of the special license plate funds now that the cat is out of the bag.

Apparently he’s not Mr. Transparent after all since he never made much of an effort to tell Californians he had his fingers into money that was being collected on behalf of non-profits from vehicle owners donating funds for a specific cause.

If you believe the word “borrowing” attached to the term “pay it back” means anything to anyone in Sacramento, guess again. Remember Proposition 13 - the water bond act of 2000? Gov. Gray Davis “borrowed” $1 billion of it to balance the budget back in 2002 in order to cover ongoing costs at the Department of Water Resources. It was supposed to have already been paid back but not one dime has been returned. Davis, by the way, is a Brown protégé having served as chief of staff the first time Brown was in Sacramento during his Gov. Moonbeam days.

The money represented the $1 billion portion of the bond that was supposed to address perennial flooding problems including south of Manteca along the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers. It was passed on the heels of the devastating floods of 1997 and obtained voter support because of what the money was restricted to be used for by the state.

It’s obvious the state can’t keep any legally binding promise or commitment if there is a need to keep a bloated bureaucracy paid and special projects funded. If a non-profit or lower government entity had done that, you can bet Sacramento would be going after them.

We are now being asked by the same governor who violated our trust with a voluntary fee the state collects to trust him and vote for his sales tax and income tax hikes in November because he promises it will go toward schools and law enforcement.

The state has “borrowed” restricted money before and not paid it back as they promised. Imagine what little conscience they’d have to take money that isn’t restricted by ballot language on how it is spent and put it toward something else other than what they are promising.

Money to schools - if it indeed does go there - will probably cover shortfalls in the pension system. Don’t expect it to stop further budget cuts. As for money going to law enforcement, how many extra officers protecting your neighborhood do you think it will hire to help keep the peace with all of the criminals the state is releasing ahead of schedule from prisons?

For the past 18 years, I’ve added another $40 to my DMV renewal for Yosemite plates. That is $720 that was supposed to go to the Yosemite Fund to help restore Yosemite and not help restore a bureaucrat’s salary along the Capitol Mall in Sacramento.

If Brown wants an answer to why voters are leery of his November tax measure even if part of it is put on the back of higher incomes, he needs to look no farther than himself.

Instead of doing the right thing and downsizing state government to match income no matter how painful it is, the state changes the rules to feed their financial appetite whether it is grabbing redevelopment agency funds, water bond proceeds, or personalized plate fees paid for the specific purpose of benefiting non-profits efforts.

I might as well trade in my Yosemite plate for a regular California personalized plate that reads either NOTRUST, or SACLIES above the word “California.”

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.