Agencies thwart Brown’s plan to redirect billions in redevelopment funds

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A laptop shows highlights of California Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget during a press conference at the State Capitol on January 10, 2011 in Sacramento, California.

For nearly a week, several California cities and counties have been locking in more than a billion dollars in funding for redevelopment projects.

The move could undermine one of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposals to close the state’s $25 billion budget deficit.

Governor Brown wants to dissolve local redevelopment agencies in California to help close the deficit. Those agencies get a percentage of local property taxes to pay for projects.

Brown wants to redirect nearly $2 billion of that money away from redevelopment and toward local governments next year.

Last week, the Legislature’s non-partisan fiscal analyst Mac Taylor warned that moving the money was risky. "It’s a pretty difficult thing to all of sudden just terminate things."

Taylor said the governor’s proposal left a lot of questions unanswered – most importantly, whether the Legislature could get $2 billion from redevelopment agencies next year. "Our concern is that they might take actions to reduce what the state may be able to gain in the long run."

Several redevelopment agencies did take action. Over the weekend, a handful committed more than a billion dollars to different projects.

The Community Redevelopment Agency for the City of Los Angeles reserved $900 million for plans it says are already in the works. Riverside County’s redevelopment agency approved $100 million for new projects.

It looked like a quick end-run around the Legislature and the governor before they could dissolve the redevelopment agencies. But John Vigna, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, kept the peace. "The last thing the state needs right now is more in-fighting between different branches of government because we really do have a serious problem and we need to fix it."

A spokesman for Jerry Brown said the governor hopes the $2 billion in redevelopment projects will create new jobs or help the state economy in some way.

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