San Luis Obispo County leaders fight for Proposition 22

San Luis Obispo County officials met Wednesday wearing boxing gloves to signify their support for a proposition on Tuesday’s ballot that would prohibit the state from taking or borrowing local revenue used for transportation, redevelopment and government services.

“We’re fighting back — that’s why we have these gloves on,” San Luis Obispo City Councilwoman Jan Marx said at a news conference, surrounded by city officials from around the county clad in black-and-white boxing gloves.

Proposition 22 would prohibit the state from taking property tax revenues and redevelopment funds from cities, counties and special districts.

It would also prevent the state from shifting gasoline tax funds allocated to local governments for street maintenance and improvements.

However, opponents of the measure say it will cut the guaranteed funding for schools by $400 million a year and will siphon funds from fire districts, health care and social services such as In Home Support Services for seniors and the disabled.

Voters in the past six years have passed two measures intended to protect local government funds, but they contained provisions allowing the state to borrow money during fiscal emergencies.

Last year’s state budget took about $5 billion in city, county, transit, redevelopment and special district funds, according to the Yes on 22 campaign.

In May, five cities in the county had to send a combined $3.6 million in redevelopment money — used by local redevelopment agencies toward efforts to reduce blight — to the state for schools.

Ron De Carli, executive director of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, said the state deferred $14 million this fiscal year that would be used for local transit and street and road maintenance.

“This will once and for all put a firewall between the state and local governments,” Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara said. “If we are able to control our local budgets we can survive.”

Proposition 22 would allocate $1 billion for local transportation projects and redevelopment agencies, according to the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

But it would cut money the state can spend on other programs by about $1 billion in this fiscal year, and “increase General Fund costs by about $1 billion annually for the next couple of decades,” the Legislative Analyst said.

Doing so may leave services that counties provide, including health and social services, open to further cuts, said Erin Treadwell, a spokeswoman for the California State Association of Counties, which did not take a position on the proposition.

“Proposition 22 is a Catch-22 for counties,” she said. “It does offer some protection for services such as transportation and redevelopment but you’re going to leave child protective services and social services very vulnerable to cuts from the Legislature.”

County Supervisor Bruce Gibson said he “reluctantly” opposes the measure because of its unintended consequences toward funding for health and human services programs — programs that serve all residents of a county, whether they live in a city or in an unincorporated area.

“I believe something needs to be done to protect local revenue sources, but it needs to be a more comprehensive solution,” he said. “If it passes, that’s one more lockdown the state Legislature has to deal with in balancing its budget.”

Other county supervisors in California also worry the proposition’s passage would make it even more difficult for the state to balance a budget.

“On the face of it, Proposition 22 sounds great — keep local funding local — until it is made clear that it would cut almost $1 billion out of our school budgets immediately,” said Kathy Long, chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

Richard Stapler, spokes-man for the No on Proposition 22 campaign, said the measure, if successful, would undo the Legislature’s $2 billion takeaway from local redevelopment agencies and reduce the state budget for local education agencies by $1 billion.

Opponents of the measure include California Professional Firefighters, the California Teachers Association and the California Nurses Association.

Supporters include the League of California Cities, San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, San Luis Obispo County Employees Association and the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce. Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo are also listed as supporters on the Yes on Proposition 22 website.