Skip to comments.CA: Fee plan targets pollution - ACA 13(proposal would increase taxes without voter approval)
Posted on 04/15/2005 9:05:46 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
Gov. Schwarzenegger, who has rejected the idea of increasing state taxes, is pushing legislation that would let cities, counties and other public agencies increase fees and property tax assessments to pay for stormwater cleanup and flood control.
Local governments face hundreds of millions -- and maybe billions -- of dollars in costs to reduce pollution in runoff from yards, construction sites and other locations to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.
The legislation would put a measure on a future state ballot to weaken Prop. 218, the anti-tax measure approved by 56 percent of voters nearly a decade ago. It requires a public vote before local governments can raise fees for anything but water and sewer services.
"We need to have a better way to have locals get these funds," said Brian E. White, the deputy director for legislative affairs at the state Department of Water Resources.
"If we don't allow locals to fix this, the burden will shift back to the state. We don't think it's fair to make state taxpayers pay for local problems. The governor is highly supportive of this," White said.
Getting the measure through the Legislature and onto a future ballot, however, will require the support of at least several of Schwarzenegger's fellow Republicans.
In the past, most GOP lawmakers opposed similar legislation because of concerns that it would result in tax increases.
"If the state's not willing to reimburse local governments for stormwater costs, maybe it's not that important," said Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, who opposed similar legislation in 2003.
An anti-tax group is vowing to fight the measure, ACA 13.
Critics claim that the measure would give nearly 7,000 entities -- from cities to community college districts -- a green light to increase taxes and other fees.
"We're very much opposed to it. One of our top legislative priorities is to kill it," said Jon Coupal, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, the group that pushed Prop. 218 in 1996 and which is allied with Schwarzenegger on several issues.
Under Prop. 218, requested fee increases need approval from two-thirds of voters or a majority of property owners.
Supporters reject the tax-increase label.
If voters pass the proposed constitutional amendment, it would be up to local boards of supervisors and city councils to make the decisions after public hearings, they said.
The legislation is still taking shape in the Capitol. But it already has the strong support of Inland cities and counties, and others statewide.
Among the higher pollution-control costs confronted by public agencies are extra enforcement and expensive new facilities to clean stormwater such as catch-basin filters.
"There's absolutely no tax base to do these things," said Daniel Cozad, general manager of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority. "If we want clean water in rivers and streams, somebody's got to pay for that."
Prop. 218 makes it too difficult to increase fees to cover higher expenses, Cozad and others contend. Although some agencies have been successful at getting fee hikes approved, most have not.
In 2003, for example, a proposal to triple a $15-a-year park district assessment for Jurupa-area property owners was opposed by three of every four voters in a 2003 mail-in ballot.
"We've had very few 218 victories. Nobody wants to pay for these programs, no matter how important they are," said Karen Keene, the legislative representative for the California State Association of Counties.
But Coupal of the taxpayers group said voters would respond if public agencies made a solid case for the additional revenue.
"There are some people who are just are too lazy to go out and get the votes," Coupal said.
Schwarzenegger also has a significant financial stake in the legislation.
Within days of Schwarzenegger taking office in November 2003, the state was hit with a $464 million judgment finding it liable for the 1986 collapse of a levee in Yolo County. The governor's January budget plan calls for borrowing the $464 million to pay the judgment.
ACA 13 would generate a way to raise money to make repairs to other sections of levee. The costs could be spread statewide, since Southern California water users benefit from Northern California's levee system.
To make it onto the ballot, the legislation would need the support of Democrats and at least two of Schwarzenegger's fellow Republicans in the Senate and six in the Assembly.
"It's going to be a tough hurdle," White said.
California is ungovernable. Arnold had his chance and he blew it. Thanks for nothing.
I'm not surprised, I just like reminding the Aronld-bots on this board of their total screw-up from time to time.
It just gets better and better!
(Denny Crane: "Sometimes you can only look for answers from God and failing that... and Fox News".)