The League of California Cities, which co-sponsored the measure to close a loophole that allowed the state to “borrow” local tax share in emergencies, filed a lawsuit Aug. 2, asking Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny to change the Legislative Analyst’s fiscal impact summary in the Title & Summary pamphlet.
The suit asked the judge to include a reference to the impact on “local government” finances. The legislation was designed to protect local government revenues by eliminating the state’s ability to borrow local government property tax or gas tax funds as it did in 2009.
It also prevents the state from diverting locally-levied taxes, including sales taxes and redevelopment tax increment funds. However, the summary doesn’t mention local government by name.
One business day before the deadline to make changes to ballot language, Judge Kenny ordered that the statement be changed to read: “Comparable increases in funding for state and local transportation programs and local redevelopment” instead of “Comparable increases in transportation and redevelopment resources.” That decision, while accompanied by a statement that said the fiscal impact summary should “contain some express reference to ‘local governments,'” still leaves out the phrase “local government.”
“We’re pleased that Judge Kenny recognized the fundamental right of the voters to be informed of the impacts of Prop. 22 on local government revenues,” said League of California Cities Executive Director Chris McKenzie. “However, despite some minor changes, the fiscal impact statement still does not adequately inform voters that Prop. 22 will significantly protect revenues for cities, counties and special districts.”
Larry Tramoutola, an election advisor to dozens of cities and local agencies across the state, said the absence of those two words makes the argument for the proposition weaker. “Voters are angry at state government so, up until now, if you can make the argument that a measure will keep revenues local, that is a powerful one,” Tramutola said.
In the full analysis contained in the more substantial Voter Information Guide, the Legislative Analyst acknowledges that Prop. 22 “would result in more stable revenues being available for local governments.” The language does not make it into the summary, however.
McKenzie and the Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services coalition vowed to get the word out to educate voters about the positive impact the measure would have on local services such as emergency 911 response, police, fire, parks and libraries.
“Prop. 22 is the most significant measure protecting local government services in recent memory,” McKenzie said. “Voters have a fundamental right to know that.”
J.T. Long writes for PublicCEO.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org