Demos say GOP plans sting local government

There’s just no getting around it: To balance the state budget, the Legislature will have to cut spending, raise taxes and hit local jurisdictions up for even more tax dollars.

That was the message Democratic Assemblywoman Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, brought to a collection of local officials and interested citizens this week in the City Council Chamber building.

Negrete-McLeod and other Assembly Democratic Caucus members are traveling the state and meeting with city and county representatives to explain the Democrats’ dilemma in this budget crunch where the Republicans refuse to consider any tax increase.

At about the same time in Sacramento, a budget proposal that included only one tax hike was defeated by the Republicans, who later crowed that they would not compromise on the issue of taxes, as they have in recent years. The Democrats responded by acknowledging that state lawmakers are hopelessly deadlocked.

“We are trying to sell that we need a balanced budget, and to do that we need to raise revenue [as well as cut spending],” Negrete-McLeod told local officials, including City Manager Tom Lando and Butte County CAO Paul McIntosh.

Those officials responded by saying that the state needs to change the way it does business when it comes to balancing the budget and stop raiding local coffers to cover its budget gaps.

Negrete-McLeod compared the current situation to that of a decade ago, when the state, under then-Gov. Pete Wilson, faced a $14 billion deficit. (Today deficit is closer to $38 billion.)

At that time, she said, the Legislature raised $7 billion in new taxes. She said Democrats are looking at a half-cent sales tax increase and the return to the 1998 level of vehicle license fees, which would mean billions headed back to local jurisdictions. If the Republicans, as promised, file an injunction to stop the VLF increase, she said, the cities will lose $4 billion, and Chico in particular will suffer a $2.6 million loss.

Republican-proposed budget plans without revenue increases could spell the loss of as much as $3 million for Chico, she said.

“I didn’t come here to supplant local government,” she said. “I’m just telling you what it will mean. I’m just the messenger.”

McIntosh countered, “We can’t balance our budgets on the backs of other jurisdictions, and that is what we ask the state to do.”

Lando noted the city stands to lose $2 million to $3 million, or 10 to 20 percent of its operating budget.

“That is hard to accommodate without laying off employees,” he said.

The meeting was scheduled by Chico Vice-Mayor Coleen Jarvis and is part of the Democrats’ campaign called “Save California.” In a press release accompanying Negrete-McLeod’s arrival, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, D-Los Angeles, said “Republicans want people to believe you can have cuts without consequences. Well, you can’t.”

But Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga, has threatened that any Republican who votes to increase taxes will be targeted for defeat in future primary elections.