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Calif. Counties Lobby Against State Raids

— California’s cities and counties are intensifying their push to get the state to leave their revenues alone while balancing the budget. Wednesday, officials faced the legislature’s joint budget committee. They asked the state not to withhold $2 billion in local property taxes. But county officials can’t agree on what the state should cut instead.

It’s easy for county supervisors across California to say the state raiding local tax revenues is a bad idea. For example, here’s Yolo County Supervisor Mike McGowan, who says the consequences would be devastating.

“If you see an abusive situation in the store, where someone is mistreating a child, don’t call our Child Protective Services,” says McGowan. “We will have cut them. If you see something going on next door with your elderly neighbor, don’t call Adult Protective Services. We won’t have one. We will have cut them.”

But ask supervisors for an alternative and they’re all across the board. San Diego County’s Bill Horn says the legislature should consider privatizing CalTrans and the incarceration of undocumented immigrants.

“Why don’t we contract those out to a prison in Mexico,” says Horn. They serve the same sentence -- it’s a cheaper way to go. I would suggest too, and I know a lot of folks are gonna moan at this, that we allow offshore drilling 50 miles out, and they’d pay a revenue enhancement for that privilege.”

Those are some of his fellow supervisors groaning in the background, by the way. And then, of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum: taxes. Here’s Contra Costa County’s John Gioia:

“There are some of us at the local level – I mean, there’s different points of view about this – that would like to have the requirement for new taxes lowered to a majority instead of two-thirds,” says Gioia. “That would give some greater flexibility to raise some revenues locally, as well as statewide.”

Of course, complete and utter unanimity is probably not going to happen here. California has 58 different counties – urban and rural, coastal and inland, liberal and conservative. But there appears to be at least some consensus on changing the rigid, voter-approved spending formulas for education, road work and more. There’s also increasing support for a constitutional convention to overhaul state government.

But those are long-term solutions. The looming multi-billion dollar deficits are short-term problems.

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