September 13, 2015

Bill to restore Inland cities' funding on governor's desk

Eastvale, Menifee, Wildomar and Jurupa Valley have lost millions over the past four years.


Same issue. Different year.

A bill that would restore funding diverted in 2011 from the state’s four newest cities – all in Riverside County – has landed on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Again.

Officials in Eastvale, Wildomar, Menifee and Jurupa Valley, stung by Brown’s two previous vetoes of bills that would have restored state funding to them, were pragmatic about whether the governor would sign SB25 into law.

“I hold out very little hope, but I pray every night that he does,” said Wildomar Mayor Ben Benoit.

Brown has 30 days from Sept. 8, the day SB25 got to his desk, to either sign the bill or veto it. If he takes no action, SB25 becomes law.

SB25, which was introduced by state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, is virtually identical to SB69, which was Brown vetoed in September 2014. Roth also sponsored SB69.

In his veto message, Brown cited concerns about the “long-term costs to the general fund that this bill would occasion.”

Eastvale City Manager Michele Nissen said the state’s financial picture has improved markedly over the past year.

“Now he’s got a revenue surplus,” Nissen said.

Eastvale and Jurupa Valley have written letters signed by their respective mayors urging the governor to sign the bill to ease the four cities’ financial hardship.

Eastvale, Menifee, Wildomar and Jurupa Valley have lost millions annually since June 2011, when state legislators voted to divert vehicle-license fee revenue from cities to law enforcement grants.

All California cities lost vehicle-license fee revenue, but the four newest cities received a greater share to make up for property taxes that cities formed after 2004 don’t get.

All have had to cut back on services, including law enforcement, but none have been affected as badly as Jurupa Valley, which became a city two days after the vote.

SB25 would return the estimated $16 million per year to the four cities in property tax money that normally goes to education.

Because state law requires full funding for education, that money would have to be repaid from the general fund.

Jurupa Valley has lost an estimated $25 million over the past four years and has taken an initial step toward disincorporation.

Although Jurupa Valley’s financial situation has improved, the city still owes more than $18 million to Riverside County in unpaid transition year costs, law enforcement costs and revenue neutrality payments.

Menifee Mayor Scott Mann said Brown has had multiple opportunities to restore vehicle-license fee funding rescinded as part of his public safety realignment plan in 2011. And there has been no indication from the governor, or his staff, that he will approve it this time either, Mann said.

Despite that, Mann said, he has written a personal letter to Brown asking him to sign SB25.


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