And the cuts keep on coming.
Last Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to address a $20 billion state budget deficit with a new budget plan that will last through June 30 of next year. While it still needs approval from the California legislature, Schwarzenegger’s plan includes $8.5 billion in spending reductions, including cuts and borrowing from numerous local services statewide.
Santa Cruz City Councilmember Tony Madrigal is one of the many local officials promoting the “Local Taxpayers, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act” — a statewide ballot initiative created to protect local interests. Without this initiative, some fear the state would be unable to repay the money it proposes to borrow from cities.
“The state legislature and government find themselves unable to find a balanced budget without taking funds from local cities,” Madrigal said. “[The act] will be one more weapon in our arsenal to defend ourselves.”
Sponsored by the League of California Cities, the California Transit Association and the California Alliance for Jobs, the act opposes the removal of funds from local governments, public safety and transportation.
“This measure will help cities,” Madrigal said. “It’s an opportunity for voters to defend the funding for local services.”
Deanna Sessums, the Monterey Bay regional public affairs manager for the League of California Cities, discussed several of the ideas in the governor’s recent budget plan.
“The governor is proposing to eliminate the sales tax on gas and replacing it with an excise tax,” Sessums said. “It’s an accounting gimmick. The sales tax is for the city, but by eliminating it and replacing it with an excise tax, he can use the money however he wants.”
Sessums also explained that since the majority of the Santa Cruz General Fund goes to the police, fire department, parks and libraries, these services will be affected first.
Local transit services should also expect cuts from funding if Schwarzenegger’s plan comes through.
Santa Cruz Route 20D bus driver Dennis Baldwin discussed the importance of local transit, and why it should not lose money from the state.
“We need an initiative … we can’t have them dipping into transportation, because fares don’t pay for buses,” he said.
UC Santa Cruz fourth-year Sulimon Sattari values the significance of adequate local transit funding.
“It’s important,” Sattari said. “It makes you more mobile and the better the transportation, the more mobile you are — the more things you can get done.”
Baldwin also commented on the importance of services like the fire department, police department and emergency dispatch.
“There’s no way to take from those departments and get the city to run properly,” Baldwin said. “We’ve finally got enough in those fields where [they] are taken care of, and now if we take from them, we’ll be at a shortage.”
In an effort to get the act on the November 2010 ballot, the League of California Cities is asking every city in the Monterey area to collect at least 100 signatures by April.
“It’s our goal to collect 10,000 signatures from the Monterey Bay region,” Madrigal said. “Legally, we need nearly 700,000 valid signatures, but 1.1 million signatures is our goal for the state.”
According to the website SaveLocalServices.com, this past year the state legislature “borrowed approximately $2 billion in property taxes from local governments, despite no clear path to repay these funds.”
The legislature additionally took $2 billion in local redevelopment funds, despite a recent Superior Court ruling that says these types of raids are unconstitutional.
“Redevelopment is really important for our economy,” Sessums said. “Students will be impacted because it means less jobs and less affordable housing.”
In light of the budget crisis’s recent direct influence on UC students, Madrigal stresses the importance of reducing these cuts as much as possible and making an effort to protect all of the services the city has to offer.
“Students at UCSC depend on the same local services that residents do,” Madrigal said. “I invite all of the students of UCSC, regardless of your party, to call or e-mail or text me to make arrangements to sign our petitions.”
Additional reporting by Jacob Pierce.