City of Brentwood
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*****Media Advisory*****
Press Release
Governor’s Veto Leaves City and County Budgets Uncertain
2/6/03

Governor Davis vetoed a bill sponsored by Assembly Speaker Wesson that would have restored vehicle license fees (VLF) to their pre-1998 level and guaranteed local governments (cities and counties) their historically assured funding that is primarily used for funding public safety services. In Brentwood, the VLF would provide nearly $2 million in general fund revenues, 67% of which is spent on public safety. The rest is spent on other necessary public services like street maintenance relied upon by local residents. The VLF, while deductible on federal income taxes, is a significant funding source for California’s cities. Some cities, the VLF is as much as 25% of their general fund, 60% in some. The governor’s proposed VLF cuts to cities and counties would be devastating if enacted. When the VLF was offset in the 1990’s legislators from both parties agreed to language specifically providing that the fee would return to the higher levels whenever “insufficient moneys are available”. The state’s budget shortfall ($26 billion according to Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill and potentially $34 billion according to Governor Davis) obviously meets the definition of “insufficient monies available”. It’s time the governor and legislature kept their promise to local residents. Governor Davis’ proposal to reduce VLF to cities and counties in the 2003-04 fiscal year beginning July 1, 2003, would most certainly cause California cities to institute severe and long lasting service reductions, most of which would have to be in safety services – police and fire. The failure of the governor and legislature to ensure that VLF fees continue to be passed on to local governments will be tantamount to transferring the state’s debt to the local level, a prospect that cities and citizens should actively and aggressively oppose. The governor’s focus on the size of the state’s debt is blind to the effect of his proposed service cuts on cities and counties. Senator Torlakson sees the effect and its potential to decimate local services and wisely and eloquently stated that the State of California cannot afford to lose its investment in local public safety and local education, as he cast his vote in favor of AB X 4, the VLF restoration bill on February 3, 2003.

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