When Gov. Jerry Brown rolled out his budget proposal that included the wholesale elimination of redevelopment agencies, elected government officials across the Central Coast were deeply troubled. Our local cities are battling on two fronts: fighting to curb unemployment and also to withstand the impacts of Sacramento’s years of fiscal mismanagement.
Yet again, Sacramento is dealing with a staggering budget deficit. This year, it is about a whopping $26 billion. Despite the efforts by local governments to maintain budget reserves, over the years, the state has repeatedly raided our funds, crippling our ability to satisfactorily perform our jobs and deliver important services.
Despite these challenges, one bright spot has been local redevelopment agencies, which have served as prominent vehicles for job creation and economic stimulus in our communities. Add the fact that redevelopment is responsible for creating 300,000 private-sector jobs annually, and abolishing them would destroy this economic engine.
This past fall, the public stood with us and passed Proposition 22, an initiative designed to stop these devastating raids by Sacramento. Brown’s proposal to eliminate all redevelopment agencies in the state both defies the will of the voters and will hurt our cities’ ability to help local businesses get people back to work.
Last week, when the Legislature took its first step to approving the governor’s plan to eliminate RDAs, it appeared that this important program had no champions in Sacramento. Rumors abounded that the budget negotiations were stuck in partisan gridlock. The so called “Big 5” legislative leaders that typically negotiate the budget had not even met.
Then, in an unexpected and unorthodox move, five Republican senators, including our very own Sen. Sam Blakeslee, stepped forward to lead the charge for a bipartisan compromise. They have been meeting with Brown to insist that any responsible budget agreement must include the key reforms to spur economic development and protect job-creating policies to fix our state. They included in their reform platform a call to save our local redevelopment agencies.
We have serious concerns about the governor’s attempt to once again balance the state’s budget on the backs of local governments — and at the expense of local job creation. It is time for Sacramento to fix its own problems and make the difficult reforms necessary to both balance its budget and allow local communities to thrive.
We urge them to stand strong and to keep fighting to protect important job creation tools, such as redevelopment agencies, and also for important reforms, such as a spending cap, that will help end Sacramento’s irresponsible budget practices.
In this time of budget and economic crisis, we need real leadership that will fight for reform. California has lost more jobs than any state in the nation. Small business growth is stymied by onerous and costly regulatory barriers. A prosperous future requires that we restore balance to California, not protect the status quo.
The governor and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle need to come to the table and embrace change. Over the past several years of recession, local governments have had to make many difficult and painful decisions and change the way that we do business. Now it is Sacramento’s turn.
Blakeslee and the other Republican senators should stand strong. The bipartisan reforms they have presented to Brown, including preserving cities’ ability to invest in local job creation, represent an opportunity get California back on track. We hope that the governor will change his position and join Blakeslee and his colleagues in their insistence on real reform as a cornerstone of a lasting budget solution.
Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals, Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara, Paso Robles Mayor Duane Picanco, Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley, Morro Bay Mayor William Yates, Lompoc Mayor John Linn, Santa Maria Mayor Larry Lavagnino.