Amendment would stop state from taking money from cities |

Amendment would stop state from taking money from cities

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The League of California Cities wants to initiate a constitutional amendment that would make it mandatory for the state to get voter approval before it takes money designated to local governments.

Cities from all over the state are unhappy that less money has been channeled to local governments to pay for public services — South Lake Tahoe included.

The league intends to deliver the language for a statewide ballot initiative to the California Attorney General’s Office by the end of the month.

Cities complain that property tax funds and vehicle license fees have been taken away in the interest of adopting a state budget.

And the problem appears far from over. The league points to the $8 billion state lawmakers transferred to the next budget year because the $38.2 billion shortfall in the 2003-04 budgets was too much to bear at once. The deficit leaves cities vulnerable if the state’s economic picture doesn’t improve significantly.

Even the name for the four-day gathering described the league’s mission — “Saving Local Democracy.” Council members Tom Davis, Kathay Lovell and John Upton as well as City Manager Dave Jinkens and City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo attended the Sacramento conference.

They returned energized and dedicated to signing on to the effort. A city resolution may be approved today or Oct. 7.

“I’ve never seen that kind of electricity. We’re sick and tired of being the whipping boy for the state,” Davis said.

The league’s board of directors has established a political action committee called Citipac to raise private funds to finance part of the cost for such a campaign.

“We’ve learned the hard way,” said league President and Oakland City Attorney John Russo. “Our police and fire, parks and libraries will always be at risk unless we change the constitution to prevent state raids of local funds.”

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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