Communities work to say no to state |

Communities work to say no to state

A statewide signature-gathering effort was launched Monday to keep California lawmakers from raiding the funds of cities and counties to balance the state budget.

Last month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled his plan to try and fill the state’s $14 billion budget hole. Part of that plan includes a proposed property tax shift, in which local governments contribute $1.3 billion to help the state meet its financial obligations. If the proposal makes it through the budget process, Nevada County’s share would be $2.3 million, according to the California State Association of Counties.

The counties’ association, the League of California Cities and the California Special Districts Association are spearheading the Local Taxpayers and Public Safety Act that was announced Monday in nine cities across California. The groups must submit 598,105 valid signatures by April 16 to qualify for the November ballot.

Nevada County Supervisor Peter Van Zant is the county’s representative for the association of counties. He said the county supervisors generally supported the idea of a ballot initiative before there was specific language.

“It’s ballot-box budgeting,” he said. “But on the other hand, it’s the third time they’ve done this (shifted property taxes) to us.”

The initiative would require voter approval before the state could take local government money in the future. The measure would also require more timely reimbursements from the state whenever it mandates a program, service or added cost onto local governments.

“We’re giving voters of California the final say to protect their local services from state raids,” said Paul Stein, a Calaveras County supervisor and CSAC president. “We encourage voters to look for this petition and sign it as soon as possible to protect our local services.”

Van Zant, meanwhile, said state legislators shift funding but don’t see how those decisions affect local governments and residents.

“It effectively puts the blame on the counties. We sit and listen to the groups it impacts,” Van Zant said. “We’re going to have to implement the downsizing in the budget. We’re the budget grunts.”

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