Regionalism hinders local control

President, California Chamber of Commerce

California’s population continues to grow by more than 500,000 people a year, placing a tight squeeze on affordable housing, adequate transportation, schools and jobs. To address these challenges, local cities and governments should be encouraged to work together and create regional growth management policies.

Assembly Bill 680 is a pilot project in the Sacramento region that is supposed to encourage regional cooperation. In reality, the bill tries to accomplish too many things without fixing anything.

AB 680 penalizes local government by taking a percentage of local sales tax revenue and redistributing it according to state-dictated land-use priorities. Under the proposal, one-third of tax revenues would go to the region on a per-capita basis, one-third to areas that protect open space and one-third divided as it is currently.

There are many flaws to this approach. First, this division of taxes epitomizes “taxation without representation.” Your tax dollars should be spent by officials you elect. Under AB 680, they would not.

Secondly, AB 680 does nothing to ensure proper growth. Instead it’s a “Catch 22.” To get the biggest piece of the tax pie, local governments would have to discourage growth. Of course, if all governments discourage growth, then there won’t be any new tax dollars!

Local officials should be free to create sensible economic development—preparing their communities for inevitable growth and the tax dollars needed to support it. They must encourage businesses to grow, plan for nearby housing and schools and be able to collect the revenue to support the necessary infrastructure and services, such as fire protection.

AB 680 claims state government is more qualified than local officials to address regional concerns. However, in Placer County, local government, business, environmental and community leaders created Placer Legacy, which preserves agricultural resources and open space. This plan creates buffers between cities, thereby avoiding urban sprawl. Clearly, this demonstrates how local leaders can best address the issues that affect their region.

AB 680 is simply not the best solution to the growth challenges that California faces. That’s why more than 170 cities throughout California officially oppose the bill, along with the California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and many other statewide organizations.

Together, they recognize that communities function best when they have the discretion and authority to manage their own tax revenues and create their own growth strategies.