Sacramento's proposal to take $4.4 billion in local tax revenue from city governments is "irresponsible," "outrageous" and "unconstitutional," city manager Kevin Duggan said Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders announced their plan to close California's deficit, which is currently at more than $26 billion. Besides taking billions from cities around the state, the proposed budget would also take $9 billion from schools and colleges, $2 billion from health and human services and save $1.3 billion through furloughs for state workers.
The proposal, drafted by the governor and legislative leaders, was scheduled to go before the Legislature as early as Thursday.
Locally, the budget proposal would mean a $5 million to $6 million hit for the city, Duggan said. Since the proposal is still tentative, he did not have exact numbers. But if passed, he said, the budget would take millions of dollars away from the general fund, the Shoreline district, the downtown revitalization district and funds set aside for city maintenance and improvement.
The state "is asking our citizens to decrease local services because it has been irresponsible over the last six to eight years," Duggan said. "This is a tremendous hit. It is outrageous."
Duggan said cities should not have to take responsibility for the state's fiscal problems.
"When we have a budget problem we don't look to the state to bail us out," he said. "Being desperate doesn't mean you can transfer consequences of fiscal mismanagement."
Mountain View may join ranks with several other California cities preparing to sue the state over the budget proposal. The League of California Cities called the proposal a "Ponzi scheme."
"We are convinced that a number of these actions are not only irresponsible, but unconstitutional," Duggan said. "We think they do not have the legal authority to take funds."
Once a state budget is ratified, city staffers will spend the next few weeks examining it in order to have proposals ready for the City Council when it returns from recess in late August.
Mountain View officials have already cut more than $6 million from the general fund this year, taking $4 million from, among other things, parks and street maintenance, city planning, code enforcement and library services, and using another $2.2 million in reserves to fill the gap.
Under the new proposal, they would have to cut millions more.
"We know it is huge," Dugan said of the state budget. "We don't know details yet."
The news is not much better for schools and community colleges, which would lose more than $6 billion altogether if the proposal passes (not counting another $3 billion taken from the state's two university systems). Administrators in the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District said the new proposal could take $2 million from the district, but they were already anticipating these steep numbers.
The state could cut retroactively from the 2008-09 school year, and reduce the budget for the 2009-10 academic year. These cuts could also flow into the 2010-11 school year, said MVLA Superintendent Barry Groves.
The district already passed a budget for the next school year, but Groves said administrators and trustees will have to reexamine it depending on the final state budget deal.
"When the numbers come in, we will look at our budget and see if we have to adjust it," Groves said.