City leaders furious over state money-grab


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.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Hill
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 22, 2009 at 3:13 pm

I cannot see how this proposed action by the Governor is any different than me turning to my neighbor and taking his cash, when I am in need of money. By what right does the State arrogate this action, other than that of being the biggest bully on the block?

I know that this will not balance the books, but I believe that neither the Governor, nor the Legislature, have earned their pay during this Budget debacle, and they should lose it ... not postpone it. This should be the case during any year that the Budget is not in place by the time called for.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 22, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I agree that this is outrageous but remember that cities are creations of the state:

Dillon's Rule
An 1868 court ruling (named after the judge) that local governments are creations of state governments and/or constitutions, and have no standing under the U.S. Constitution (i.e., they have no inherent sovereignty).

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 22, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Furious no doubt. But I've been just as furious the last several years when I've seen the city give away the farm to the police, fire and city workers unions.

The chickens have come home to roost folks. The city and state just want to raise your taxes. Never do we find them trying to lower costs. That would be unthinkable. They have an insatiable appetite for other people's money.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 23, 2009 at 7:11 am

Correction: Dillon's rule only applies to California's non-charter cities. Since Mountain View is a Charter City (home-rule), Dillon's rule does not apply.

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2009 at 8:40 am

Karma is a b***h!

Like this comment
Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2009 at 10:17 am

If you have voted for a good percentage of the state bonds over the last two decades, you are not allowed to complain about the budget. I agree that the legislature has shown themselves to be a weak entity over this, but blaming them for this crisis is akin to blaming mommy and daddy if they make you pay them back when they take care of your credit card bill.

Like this comment
Posted by SaveCA
a resident of The Crossings
on Jul 23, 2009 at 10:24 am

"The city and state" does not "just want to raise your taxes." The politicians just want to keep their jobs and the structure of state government gives special interests - unions and big businesses - the power to kill the careers of politicians who oppose them. The Governator spun the defeat of the propositions in an election only a quarter of registered voters bothered with as a mandate to cut services to the bone. (Were the props intentionally made so confusing that people wouldn't know how to vote so they didn't?) (Before you ask, I did, and voted yes.) This year's state budget will be a disaster whatever it's final form. We need to change the two-thirds rule to 55% for passing revenue and budgets, institute open primaries, require spending propositions to provide funding sources, and limit the influence of lobbyists on legislation. We need a Constitutional Convention, and soon.

Like this comment
Posted by young college student
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 26, 2009 at 9:20 pm

I kept telling everyone that CA's liberal policies were going to bite everyone in the a** one day. We need to go back to our roots and learn to live without credit. We cannot keep buying goods and services with IOU's. We the citizens should have let the system crash when it had the chance to back in the end of 08, and then maybe right now we could have been on our way to rebuilding the system instead of trying to repair it, which is costing even more to American tax payers. It seems to me like the bailouts set the precedent of not letting our big corporate brothers fail when infact it is their own greed that let us down this disastrous path.

We don't need leaders to guide our everyday liives. When we learn to cope with everyday problems without having the gov't intervene, then maybe that will be the day we can have a democratic goverment working for its people and not the other way around.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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