Baca and Firefighters: Leave Property Taxes Alone

Sheriff Lee Baca joined firefighters and police officers today to urge state legislators to not use local property taxes to balance California's budget.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he may borrow as much as $2 billion in local property and gas tax revenues to close a $24 billion budget shortfall that has put the state on the brink of financial collapse.

The governor may also suspend Proposition 42 payments to cities. The voter-approved measure requires that gas taxes be used for public transportation, city and county road repairs and state highway improvements.

Under the governor's proposal, the state would repay cities -- with interest -- for the borrowed property tax revenues within three years. The state would not have to repay gas tax funds. The city of Los Angeles stands to lose $89 million to $200 million.

"The state should not balance their budget on the backs of local government," Baca said at a news conference outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.

"We need to ensure, as a policy, that the state does not erode the financial integrity of cities and counties," he said.

District Attorney Steve Cooley said the state's money troubles have been years in the making, and now is the time for state lawmakers to establish a core mission. With the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation expected to take a $1.5 billion hit and release thousands of inmates, that mission must center on fighting crime, Cooley said.

"They better prioritize public safety. At the end of the day, in troubled times, you have got to have public safety, public justice, adequately funded to do its job," the county's top prosecutor said.

"There's plenty of room to pick out things we just can't afford anymore," he said. "Let's get tough, let's prioritize things and let's tell Sacramento `Leave us alone."'

During a speech in Escondido, Schwarzenegger said the plan to shift money away from municipalities is "not a 100 percent thing."

"My Republican colleagues have already said they don't like that idea of borrowing from local government," Schwarzenegger said. "My Democratic friends have also said they don't like to borrow from local government. So, if both parties don't like to borrow from local government, of course we will not borrow from local government."

Schwarzenegger said if money is borrowed from municipalities, "we want to work with local governments so that we can figure out a way so no one does have to get laid off and that you can borrow against that money and our promise to pay you back."

The fiscal year starts July 1.

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