By RICHARD D. ROTH (Contributing Writer) | The Press-Enterprise
Sacramento is good at setting rules, but too often the state arbitrarily and suddenly changes those rules without an opportunity to respond or object.
Such was the case with Riverside County’s four newest cities: Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar. Historically, new cities received Vehicle License Fee revenue in lieu of property tax revenue. These four new cities incorporated with the understanding that VLF revenue would be available to them. Unfortunately, as many of us now know, Sacramento changed those rules and redirected VLF money to public safety realignment.
This revenue shift was not only unforeseen and inequitable, it also had dire consequences for these four new cities. It was particularly devastating for the city of Jurupa Valley, which lost 46 percent of its budget when the funding cut was imposed – just two days after it voted to incorporate.
Restoring VLF funds to these cities and ensuring our region receives its fair share has been one of my top priorities in the state Senate. That’s why I have introduced bills during the last three legislative sessions to fix this inequity. While the Legislature has been unanimous and bipartisan in its support of our cities, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed these efforts.
In May, after almost three years of negotiations with the governor and Department of Finance, our region scored a significant victory when Gov. Brown finally agreed to relieve, through the state budget, the approximately $24 million in cumulative debt these cities owe as a result of the VLF funding shift.
This fix and other related local government items are contained in what is known as the “local government budget trailer bill” – Assembly Bill 113. It must be voted on by the Legislature and sent to the governor for his signature. Fairly straightforward, one would think.
But Gov. Brown’s administration also placed language in AB113 that would complete the dissolution of redevelopment agencies – a decision that was made well before many legislators, including myself, were even elected.
The dissolution process, involving over 400 redevelopment agencies and cities, is complicated and under the rules set by this administration, the process disadvantages several cities – some significantly so. While efforts have been made to resolve each of these issues, obviously not all issues impacting these 400 cities can be resolved.
Is this effort perfect? Certainly not. On balance, however, does the good outweigh the bad? I think so.
Let me be clear: I support redevelopment. Had I been in office when the issue was being debated, I would have voted to keep redevelopment agencies.
However, those agencies were abolished, and now we find ourselves attempting to implement a decision that, in some cases, was made without us.
From my perspective, what is clear is AB113 contains a critical fix that would allow our four newest cities to survive and live another day. But the redevelopment piece has caused one particular organization, the League of California Cities, to oppose the proposal in its entirety – regardless of the benefits it contains.
What this means is the League has taken a position against Riverside County’s four newest cities, mobilizing its larger member cities, and their legislators, against the fix and against Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar.
While I understand the LCC’s position on redevelopment and am willing to work with them and the administration in an attempt to fix these outstanding issues, in the end, if they cannot reach a compromise, then the Legislature will be faced with a choice.
I believe the right choice for our region is to vote for this fix that will allow California’s four newest cities to survive and live another day.
Legislators in Sacramento spend a good deal of time staking out ideological territory. For better or for worse, it is part of the political process. But too often, political ideology gets in the way of the good, in the way of progress for our constituents and in the way of common sense.
I believe our cities, Inland Southern California and, frankly, the entire state deserve better than that. That’s why I will continue to make our region’s issues my number one priority, and will, regardless of politics or ideology, continue to work with my colleagues in both the Senate and Assembly and with the governor’s administration to ensure this critical fix for our four newest cities is approved.
They deserve no less.
State Sen. Richard D. Roth, D-Riverside, represents the 31st Senate District. He is a retired two-star Air Force general.