Brown addresses city officials ‘hungry’ for state funding

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Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters as he announces his proposed budget at the California State Capitol on Jan. 10, 2011 in Sacramento.

Gov. Jerry Brown pitched his budget plan Wednesday at a Sacramento conference of city leaders from around the state. Brown wants to dissolve redevelopment agencies and give the money to cities and counties. It sounds like a good deal for local government but KPCC’s Julie Small reports the idea’s riled a lot of city leaders.

Brown got right down to it when he took the stage at a luncheon for hundreds of newly elected city officials: “Everybody eaten already? Because you look hungry to me!”

In recent days, some cities “hungry” for resources have fast-tracked more than $ billion in redevelopment projects. That’s money Brown wants to use to help patch the $25 billion budget gap.

Brown acknowledged that the officials at the gathering of the League of California Cities don’t care for the idea. But he said they should.

“This proposal that I have is to basically restore what was before,” said Brown, “namely local property taxes go to local functions, whether it’s fires or police or schools.”

Brown said under his plan cities would get $500 million more in property taxes next year. But Placentia Mayor Scott Nelson said the state has burned local government before. In recent years, the legislature “raided” local transportation and gas tax funds to plug the state budget deficit. Nelson said voters passed Prop 22 to protect redevelopment agencies from similar raids.

“If the governor would actually outline a precise plan on how those dollars were going to come back to the community, I would probably feel better,” he said. “Until then, probably as many local elected officials, I am going to be cynical.”

Brown encouraged city officials that don’t agree with his plan to drop by to talk about their concerns.

“Maybe come on over. I’ll give you a cup of coffee, a little Nescafé,” said Brown. “You can sit on my wooden bench. ’Cause I want people when they come into my office to know they’re on a hard surface.”

After the speech, Burbank Vice-Mayor Jess Talamantes said he was reassured by Brown’s open approach.

“Now having listened to him, it looks like he’s going to do some fine tuning to his proposal and it’s going to be more of a discussion point than something anti-him against us type thing,” he said.

Talamantes said redevelopment helped attract new businesses and new jobs to Burbank — and paid for a lot of low-income housing. He’d like to keep that money flowing.

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