When we last left the saga of California’s redevelopment agencies two months ago, Gov. Jerry Brown had fallen one vote short in the state Assembly to eliminate them. With the release of his revised budget proposal Monday, Brown is trying again:
Because redevelopment of specific areas is a local economic responsibility, rather than the state’s, the May revision maintains the Governor’s Budget proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies. Redevelopment costs the state more than $2 billion annually in lost school property taxes, and its effectiveness on a statewide basis is questionable. By eliminating the agencies, more funds can be returned to cities, counties, special districts, and schools to invest in core services such as hiring police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
Redevelopment is a state program that allows local governments to divert property taxes from schools, counties and cities’ day-to-day budgets to improve rundown neighborhoods. Local governments like redevelopment because they receive more money for neighborhood improvements than they would otherwise. Brown dislikes redevelopment because the state budget must make up the school funding lost to the program.
Brown still is counting on using an estimated $1.7 billion from eliminating redevelopment to close a now-projected $9.6 billion budget gap. His original proposal prompted cities to do all sorts of things to try to leave no money for the state if redevelopment went away.
Redevelopment proponents, who have mounted a PR blitz since the governor first made his proposal, wasted little time blasting the revised budget.
“The governor has repeatedly claimed he wants to end the gimmicks and wants honest budgeting,” Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities, said in a statement. “But his proposal to eliminate redevelopment will result in more of the same. It is illegal, will not provide the state any budgetary relief and, by destroying local economic growth, will actually reduce state and local revenues.”
Meantime, the city is continuing to examine redevelopment reform on its own. This morning, a City Council committee discussed a proposal from Councilwoman Marti Emerald to merge San Diego’s redevelopment bureaucracy into the nonprofit that now serves downtown. A report from the City Attorney’s Office said her idea had procedural obstacles, but they could be addressed.