The Good Old Days - Governor Schwarzenegger stands by local elected officials during a Proposition 1A press conference committing to protect local government and stop Sacramento's raids on city revenues.
By Mike Madrid
Given the recent headlines and dire warnings of a financial shortfall for the state budget in the range of $10 billion in Sacramento over the last few weeks, it should come as no surprise that a number of politicans have already begun the discussion of balancing the state budget on the backs of local government. Few Sacramento insiders haven't heard the rumors reverberating off of the inside of the capitol dome. There's just no other way to close that big a gap.
"Whoa!", you might be saying. "That's why we fought for and passed Proposition 1A a few years back. To stop Sacramento politicians from stealing our money."
Thats true, but remember, there's a provision in Proposition 1A that allows the state government to borrow local government funds twice in any ten year period - if there's any doubt that legislators are beginning to eye that money than clear your mind of any confusion.
$10 billion is a big number and it wont be found without inflicting some pain.
While city governments shouldn't be surprised that lawmakers are openly talking about raiding their coffers, theres plenty of room to be disappointed. As an institution the legislature is incapable of setting their own ship straight, that's why they "borrowed" billions of local government dollars for as long as we allowed them to do it. And, as the old saying in Sacramento goes "If it come down to stealing from local government or taking on the education lobby - I'm stealing from local government."
And remember also, that in order to borrow local government monies a second time, they have to first repay the old loan. That was the catch we employed to keep the politicians in Sacramento honest. They have to actually pay back the money they've borrowed - and even then, only twice in a ten year period.
No surprise that Sacramento's political class is instinctively looking to dine on local government budgets. Disappointing that they've failed to surpass the expectations that they might never have to use an escape clause to borrow their way out of a problem again. Prudent of local goverments to recognize they'd be falling back on old habits and take matters into their own hands.
So while at this point they are just rumors, the fact that more than one discussion has been had about town means we're headed in a difficult direction. If you want to test this theory, ask your legislator during the Thanksgiving break if they will publicly commit to only voting for a budget that does not include "borrowing" money from city governments. That blank stare can only mean one thing.
Be ready for a fight this budget season - if rumors are true Sacramento won't be asking "if" they're going to take city money, it will be "how much?"