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City officials back measure to fight state

City officials are supporting a proposed ballot initiative that aims to ban the state from taking or borrowing local government monies. Mayor Kevin Johnson stood with three city councilmembers and local public safety officials outside City Hall to publicize the initiative in a press conference Tuesday morning.

California is in the process of borrowing $12 million of the city’s tax funds as part of last year’s state budget crisis, according to city finance director Leyne Milstein. By the end of the month, the city will have given that total amount to the state, she said.

Don Cavier, finance director for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, said that the state plans to take $19.6 million from the agency in May and another $4 million next year. SHRA did not give funds to the state last year, Cavier said.

“We’re here basically to say very resoundingly to the state, enough is enough,” Johnson said.

Councilmembers Lauren Hammond, Bonnie Pannell and Steve Cohn appeared with Johnson at the press conference.

Cohn expressed concern that the state might take gas tax funds from the city. State politicians have been saying they may use local gas taxes for non-transportation uses, Cohn said.

“It’s just plain common sense that the gas taxes we pay at the pump should be used to improve road safety by fixing potholes and crumbling roads to relieve traffic congestion and to fund mass transit, such as buses and commuter rail," he said.

Brent Meyer, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, urged residents to sign the petition to place the proposal on the November ballot.

“It’s critical for the services that you see every day,” he said.


Brandon Castillo, a campaign consultant for the group Californians to Protect Local Taxpayers and Vital Services, noted that the proposed initiative would be an amendment to the California Constitution. A constitutional amendment is “the strongest protection” voters can make, he said.

Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, did not respond to a message seeking comment on the proposed initiative by press time.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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