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Our View: Vote yes on Proposition 22

The Signal Editorial Board

Posted: September 11, 2010 3:13 p.m.
Updated: September 12, 2010 4:30 a.m.

While we’ve witnessed some recent friction between the city of Santa Clarita and our county librarians, there is at least one area where they see eye-to-eye.

It’s in the belief that the jokers in Sacramento who have driven California to the brink of insolvency should keep their mitts off the “local dollars” that fund libraries and other cherished public services.

Proposition 22 on the November ballot would stop the state from raiding local tax coffers every time Sacramento gets itself into a budget jam — which has become the rule rather than the exception.

The League of California Cities, whose board includes Santa Clarita Councilwoman Marsha McLean, and the California Library Association, headed in 2007 by L.A. County Librarian Margaret Todd, are strong backers of the measure.

So are L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, the California police and fire chiefs associations, the California Chamber of Commerce and others responsible for everything from public safety to parks and cross-valley connectors.

All decade long, the voters have said they want the shenanigans in Sacramento to stop. And every time they pass a ballot measure telling the state to use gas-tax dollars for highways or redevelopment dollars to cure urban blight, the politicians find new and creative ways to tell the voters to shove it — to the tune of $5 billion last year alone.

If that number is too big to grasp, think of it this way. Our county supervisors are preparing to slash 20 percent of their general-fund contribution from the county library system this year — resulting in more library cutbacks countywide — because they simply don’t have the money.

It’s not the supervisors’ fault. The Sacramento politicians grab money from cities and counties alike. Now multiply that across the entire spectrum of city and county services.

Proposition 22 would close the biggest loopholes by prohibiting the state from “borrowing” gasoline-tax revenues and using them for nontransportation purposes; outright stealing redevelopment dollars from the communities that generate them, such as Newhall; and “temporarily shifting” property tax revenues from the cities, counties and special districts that need them to fight brush fires and gang crime.

“State raids of local government funds jeopardize our ability to fight crime, protect the public, and to respond to emergencies by limiting the financial resources we need to put deputies and equipment on the street,” Baca said in a statement. “Proposition 22 protects public safety services by stopping state raids of local funds.”

Proposition 22 is the taxpayers’ best chance to keep their local dollars local.

Without a doubt, as the November election approaches, you’ll see some glossy mailers from critics telling you the world will end if we pass this ballot measure. They’ll say Proposition 22 will hurt public education and statewide fire-fighting efforts.

The mailers will come from organizations that believe in Big Government and think the politicians in Sacramento should be able to sit on their thrones and dispense money as they see fit for the good of the population.

If you honestly believe Sacramento has more fiscal discipline than the agencies that are closest to the people — those agencies that provide our local services — you should probably vote against Proposition 22.

It may not be true of every city in California, but from where we’re sitting in the Santa Clarita Valley, our two municipal agencies — the city and county — do a better job of managing their affairs and our money than the gang up north.

That said, is Proposition 22 really any way to run a state? Of course not. The Sacramento politicians should have the brains and the willpower to carry out their constitutionally mandated duties and provide the services the state is supposed to provide — on time and on budget.

The fact that they do not do so, and have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not do so, makes this type of ballot-box budgeting necessary. Where the politicians fail, the voters must step in.

We wish Proposition 22 wasn’t necessary. And who knows? There will probably be some unforeseen consequences.

Will Proposition 22 so strangle the state that it can’t pay its bills? Maybe. One can hope. If it leaves the Legislature no choice but to reinvent the wheel, that’s a good thing.

Nothing will change in Sacramento until we have a constitutional convention that redefines government in California from the ground up — not the top down. As it is, it’s too far gone. We need to start over.

We need citizen politicians in Sacramento who’ve served in the city and county trenches. We need a part-time Legislature that isn’t given the time or money to mess everything up.

We need two-year budget cycles that establish the funding priorities and match revenue streams with services.

We need to assign to Sacramento the functions that only a state government can perform, and leave everything else to the local agencies that are closest to the people.

That’s the fantasy. If Proposition 22 brings it a little closer to reality, that’s all the more reason to vote “yes.”


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