Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell reprimanded Gov. Jerry Brown in a letter last week over his proposal to cut state redevelopment funding from the fiscal 2011-2012 budget.
In a three-page letter sent to the governor last Tuesday, Connell called proposed cuts to redevelopment agencies — community agencies that incur state debt to finance local housing projects, capital improvements and economic development — a short-sighted public policy move. Connell said halting redevelopment will hinder local economic activity and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs without providing savings to local governments.
Under Brown’s proposal, local government groups like the Goleta and Santa Barbara City Redevelopment Agency would stand to lose millions in project funding.
According to Connell’s letter, cutting redevelopment agencies — which generate $1.7 billion in property tax revenue and provide the state with approximately 304,000 jobs a year — would damage the state and local economy while bringing little budget relief.
“The proposal is bad for the environment, bad for working families, bad for our state,” Connell said in the letter. “This proposal runs completely contrary to the governor’s and legislature’s stated goals of realigning state services to provide more responsibility and funding locally. The proposal wipes out the only tool local governments have to drive economic growth, build up tax revenues and grow sustainably.”
Eric R.A.N. Smith, a professor in UCSB’s political science department, said cuts to redevelopment funding are preferable to other possible options including further cuts in public education.
“There is a huge deficit, Brown has identified some revenue sources and he has proposed fairly substantial cuts,” Smith said. “If he does not get his way, the probable outcome is much larger cuts to the universities, who will get hit pretty hard. These redevelopment issues take issues that a lot of residents would not think are as important [such] as good schools. If you put in a bunch of benches, you are essentially firing an aid in a classroom. A lot of redevelopment money is just sitting in banks because they have not found a way to spend it yet.”
Ted Anagnoson, a professor in the political science department at Cal State Los Angeles, said local governments can contend the legality of the cuts in court if the proposed budget passes the state legislature.
“If Governor Brown is able to convince the legislature to abolish redevelopment agencies, the general rule is that the state can do that, although there would certainly be a lawsuit from one or another city or the League of California Cities and the courts would ultimately decide,” Anagnoson said. “Cities are a very strong lobby, although they are not the only lobby from the local government level.”