Governor Brown first introduced the concept of ‘realignment’ shortly after he was inaugurated. In fact, it was one of the first concepts he addressed as governor. In his inaugural speech, Governor Brown outlined three principles in his approach to budgetary governance:
“First, speak the truth. No more smoke and mirrors on the budget. No empty promises.
Second, no new taxes unless the people vote for them.
Third, return-as much as possible-decisions and authority to cities, counties and schools, closer to the people.”
When it comes to realignment, how did he do?
Shortly after delivering his remarks at the inauguration, Governor Brown met with the leaders of California’s counties. He began a discussion that has stretched across six months. And that conversation gave the California State Association of Counties a louder voice in the budget discussions, and the ability to buy-in to Governor Brown’s plan to substantially shift responsibilities to the county level.
On January 4th, CSAC’s Executive Director wrote that “His visit to our offices, for a meeting that lasted more than an hour, was unprecedented and delivered a strong signal that he wants to work with CSAC to craft workable solutions.”
Over the following months, CSAC accepted the Governor’s offer to work as a partner to help develop not only the realignment strategy, but to ensure a funding mechanism that insulates counties from the dangers of having to deliver new and expanded services with the same or decreased funding.
On Tuesday, by a simple majority vote, the Legislature approved a realignment plan that calls for $5 billion in state sales tax to be allocated to public safety realignment, and uses as much as $130 million of vehicle license fees as well.
Shortly after a budget was passed Tuesday night, the California State Association of Counties released a statement expressing disappointment that the funding mechanisms were not codified into the Constitution.
“We were disappointed but not disheartened,” said Mike McGowan, CSAC’s First Vice President. “It is more vital than ever that our partnership (with the Governor) continue in order to secure the necessary constitutional protections counties require to make realignment feasible.”
CSAC President John Tavaglione said in a statement that the fate of realignment depends upon the reliability that a constitutional guarantee would provide. “Realignment will only work over the long-term with dedicated revenues and constitutional protections,” said Tavaglione.