To say that Governor Jerry Brown is disingenuous with his proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies in California is probably being too kind. What he is really doing is grand theft on a massive scale and he is doing it at the behest of the same public employee unions who spent millions on his campaign for Governor. The speed with which he is attempting to pay back his public employee union sponsors is breathtaking. His first act was to replace all of the members of the State Board of Education. Not one of his board appointments supports charter schools; a massive blow to school reform and a gratuitous bone to the California Teachers Union. He eliminated the competition, now he needs to feed the beast!
It would appear that Governor Brown has also promised these same groups that he would “steal” the $1.7 billion dollars in local redevelopment agency accounts to fund the salary and pension needs of those union members. It would be one thing if our crotchety Governor was proposing a public policy debate on the importance and necessity of redevelopment agencies. Or even a discussion of the abuses and the need for redevelopment reform. Instead he has summarily announced that they are really unnecessary and should be immediately disbanded and the money given to Sacramento. Further he has admonished local city council members that this is “not the time for turf wars” and they should put California first in order to solve the budget problem. This is in spite of the fact that the voters of California recently approved Proposition 22, which was supposed to keep the state from taking local redevelopment, but the Governor has apparently found a way around that.
Talk about a hypocrite! Local government didn’t create the state budget deficit. Neither did redevelopment agencies! Years of budgetary promises to special interests by Jerry Brown the first, the democratically controlled legislature and now Jerry Brown the second, created the problem. California has the highest taxes in the nation. Revenue isn’t the problem. It is simply unchecked spending, largely for entitlements with no spending caps and bloated special interests that are unwilling to endure the pain of a fiscal diet. No one has ever told them “NO” before and they aren’t going to take “no” from a Governor and a Legislature that they paid good money for.
The 425 redevelopment agencies in California play a critical role in the economy of our state. State Controller John Chiang’s Annual Report on redevelopment points to 335 million square feet of new and rehabilitated buildings in California in the last ten years. It also notes that those redevelopment agencies are already contributing $327 million annually to school districts and Community College Districts. Not to mention those agencies created 37,000 jobs in just the last two years. Nobody has created that many jobs in California in the last two years.
In the San Gabriel Valley twenty eight redevelopment agencies would be affected. Ask the leaders of any one of those cities if those improvements would have happened without the tools of redevelopment and you can bet the answer would be a resounding no.
Wiping out these agencies has consequences way beyond anything our cash starved Governor and Legislature can imagine. And, there are benefits that they can never replace by using the money to give state employees better pay and better pensions. The cities have calculated that eliminating redevelopment agencies will result in the loss of 300,000 jobs in California, eliminate $40 billion in economic activity and cost the state $2 billion in tax revenues. Isn’t that about the same amount he was planning on stealing in the first place? So what’s the point?
There are already 2.5 million unemployed in this state; another 300,000 would send our economy into a tail spin.
Continuing the financing schemes of the last five years of borrowing, stealing and raising taxes isn’t going to work. If Sacramento gets away with stealing redevelopment money, what’s to prevent them from taking some of your 401(k), or a little of the equity in your house? After all, you’re not using it right now and really, we are all just Californians first and shouldn’t we sacrifice just a little more to balance the budget? Repaying your campaign supporters with someone else’s money can’t be legal, can it?
Eliminating redevelopment in California isn’t the solution. It’s a desperate proposal by a desperate politician trying to find this month’s easy way out. The irony of it all is that Governor Brown and the First Lady were able to buy a trendy loft in an old building, in a newly gentrified section of Sacramento thanks to redevelopment.
Sacramento needs to stop looking around for the next place to rob and start dealing with the fiscal mess they created. Stealing some else’s money shouldn’t be on the list of options.