Governor Schwarzenegger. We know where you can find billions of tax dollars

It seems like yesterday when Governor Schwarzenegger was looking to find money to balance the state budget. At that time, Feb 2004, Chris Norby, Orange County Fourth District Supervisor, penned an Orange Grove in the OC Register in which he suggests an alternative to ERAF shifts. He writes “Instead of complaining, however, county and city leaders should find the governor the money he needs without cutting vital local services. And the money is there, right in front of us: It’s in the $2.5 billion in annual property tax revenue given to California’s redevelopment agencies. This huge outlay is not funding any vital public services.” He goes on to report that “Redevelopment agencies were originally created to alleviate “blight” but have become cash cows subsidizing private development.”
Folks. Drive through my city of Mission Viejo and tell me have “blight.” Although I once wrote a letter published in the Register on shutting down our redevelopment agency we continue in operation as we too have “bonded indebtedness” to pay off.

A few years a go I testified before SD Senator Christine Kehoe’s Redevelopment and Blight Joint Hearing with representatives of the Assembly and Senate discussing redevelopment.  Following that hearing I worked with her staff on SB 1206 which eventually was signed into law by governor Schwarzenegger.

On May 9th she wrote a story for Voice of San Diego in which she included the following whose title reads: The problem with redevelopment.

“Unfortunately, redevelopment is not cheap. Just providing the state’s share of redevelopment costs state taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. The 760 redevelopment project areas in California take over $3.4 billion in property tax revenues away from our schools, counties, cities and special districts. Because the state Constitution requires us to provide equal funding for schools, the state must replace every dollar that schools lose to redevelopment projects.”

So while she did point out some examples of redevelopment projects she was very candid about the true impact of our providing huge sums of “corporate welfare” to big box stores, malls, auto dealers and professional stadium moguls on the backs of the taxpayers.
So. If I have to choose between giving corporate welfare to firms whose pockets are much wider and deeper than my own I would vote to take these buckets of unused cash to offset some of the current shortfall.

Check it out. Ten years ago we created $35 million of debt relating to two parking structures for Simon Properties.  Their bank book was much larger than the city of Mission Viejo to renovate their neglected mall. As such they had the wherewithal to move ahead without our taxpayer funds but found a city council that lacked fiscal restraint. Forget my photos showing that work on the project commenced 7-8 months BEFORE the CIP was approved in Open Session by that city council.

Juice readers. Would you prefer paying higher taxes or having Arnold take the accumulated redevelopment funds as suggested by Supervisor Norby?

About Larry Gilbert