Ballot measure would stop California from taking money from cities

Supporters of a proposed ballot measure that would stop California from taking money from municipalities to balance the state budget announced today they have enough signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Act would amend the state constitution to stop state lawmakers from "raiding, diverting or borrowing" funds earmarked for local public safety, street and road repair, public transportation, local infrastructure and other public services.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido joined with City Council members from Laguna Hills, Placentia, Stanton and Fountain Valley at a news conference at Santa Ana City Hall to announce more than 1 million signatures have been collected statewide for the measure, including 90,000 from Orange County.

State law requires 694,354 valid signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment measure, so proponents have probably submitted enough signatures to get it on the November ballot.

"We're not just talking about robbing Peter to pay Paul here, we're talking about robbing Peter and Paul because we're both in this case," Pulido said.

Santa Ana Fire Chief Marc Martin, Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters and James Leach, chairman of the South Orange County Regional Chamber of Commerce, were also at the news conference.

The officials said that if state lawmakers don't stop taking money from Orange County cities, residents can expect deeper cuts in public services, including fewer police officers and firefighters.

"We live within our means," and so should state officials, Pulido said. "We are here to say we want support for this initiative because local government needs to be left alone ... Having them raid us is not acceptable."

"Our message here today is simple. We want local control over our local dollars," said Laguna Hills Councilman L. Allan Songstad Jr. "This is just the first step in making sure Sacramento keeps their hands out of our pockets."

Martin said he has had to cut his support staff in half in recent years because of the takeaways. The level of firefighters and paramedics remains the same, "but we're out of options," if more money is taken by the state, Martin said.

"I speak for all of the police chiefs in the state and they're all for this," said Walters, who serves on the California Police Chiefs' Association's board. "We have less police officers today than there were 25 years ago." Walters said most of the cuts his department has had to make are in crime prevention programs, which will have long-term negative effects on policing in Santa Ana.

The state has taken tax revenue earmarked for municipalities and school districts to reduce a projected $20 billion deficit. State officials have said the state will reimburse local governments and school districts when the state's financial situation improves.

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