This year the state once again faces a huge budget shortfall, currently estimated at $22 billion. But this time around the state's cities, including Mountain View, have decided to shore up their resources by proposing a constitutional amendment to protect them from any further money grabs by the state.
The League of California Cities is hoping to gather 650,000 signatures statewide by April 15 to place the amendment on the ballot, which is designed to address a real and imminent danger, say Mountain View city officials, that the state will again take money from them to balance its budget.
"The feeling is they will do anything they can to find money rather than do what's hard to do, which is raise taxes," said City Council member Mike Kasperzak, who is also second vice president of the League of California Cities.
With a looming state budget deficit, "They are going to have to get more creative than they have been," Kasperzak said. "The governor is talking about taking away the Prop. 42 gas tax. Part of that goes to cities for roads. He can abolish it and propose a different tax that goes to the state. They could take hotel taxes, utility taxes and redevelopment authority funds."
Mountain View, already facing an estimated $4 million budget deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1, may have to resort to employee layoffs after significantly cutting services last year.
To prevent the state from adding to the city's financial woes, the constitutional amendment would "prohibit the state from taking, borrowing or redirecting local taxpayer funds dedicated to public safety, emergency response and other vital local government services," which include public transportation, the ballot measure says. It also ensures "once and for all that our gas taxes go to fund road improvements." The full text can be read at www.savelocalservices.com.
For their part in putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot, Kasperzak said, San Francisco and its neighboring cities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties hope to gather 25,000 signatures by April 15 with the help of volunteers, and thousands more with paid signature gatherers. Those interested in helping the effort can email Rebecca Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org or look for a petition gatherer at the grocery store, post office or farmer's market.