Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filed a preliminary response to a lawsuit brought against him and members of his administration by the University of California Student Association (UCSA) and other civil rights groups.
UCSA, Californians for Justice, Equal Justice Society and four UC students filed a lawsuit in January alleging that the governor does not have the constitutional authority to spend state money as he did when he slashed the state vehicle licensing fee and issued fee refunds in January. The suit also said state laws prohibit the governor’s reduction of vehicle licensing fees unless there are sufficient monies in the state’s general fund to repay cities and counties for the lost revenue. Schwarzenegger cannot cut programs – specifically University of California programs – because he created the fiscal emergency that necessitated program cuts when he lowered the fees, the suit said.
Schwarzenegger’s response Tuesday argues that the California Supreme Court should decline to hear the case because a similar case pending in the Los Angeles Superior Court is already looking into whether or not the state has insufficient funds to pay for the vehicle licensing fee reductions. It also states that UCSA’s lawsuit is not a case that requires prompt review from the state Supreme Court because Controller Steve Westly has determined that he will not transfer the money out of the budget items listed in the Dec. 15, 2003 letter from the Dept. of Finance.
The state attorney general’s office is representing the governor, Secretary of Business for the Transportation and Housing Agency Sunne McPeak, Director of Finance Donna Ardun, state Controller Steve Westly and Director of the Dept. of Motor Vehicles Chon Gutierrez, who are also named as defendants in the suit.
California Secretary of the Treasury Phil Angelides is also named as a defendant in the suit but chose to be represented by an attorney from the Treasury Dept. Angelides, one of the most vocal critics of Schwarzenegger’s budget, filed a separate response to the suit stating he will not be advocating for or against the suit.
“The State Treasurer did not participate in any of the decisions that gave rise to this petition for writ of mandate. Additionally, he does not support the reduction in funding for the educational programs at issue in this petition,” Angelides’ response said.