As elections draw nearer, voters decide where to place their votes considering candidates, propositions and other issues. The City of Santa Cruz is trying to convince its voters that Proposition 22 is worth voting up.
Proposition 22 would restore property taxes that voters initiated to help their local services, from the library to the Metro, survive the economic recession. The Governor of California effectively overturned Proposition 42, which was passed in 2008, when he signed the law last year transferring local funds to the state, without voter initiative.
The transfer of local funds to the state has amounted to roughly $3 million dollars annually for the City of Santa Cruz alone.
“The state has its problems and they should solve them, but they shouldn’t be solving them on the backs of the local governments,” said Teresa Landers, Santa Cruz Public Library Director, although she said her opinions did not reflect the library’s position as a whole. “Usually state governments help local governments, so I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the local governments to shore up the state.”
Landers said this was especially true since voters didn’t specify their funds to be directed towards the state, but instead for local services. The library had to slash its materials budget in response last year, which has been reflected in the way it has not been able to provide its normal services to the community.
“This recession is making us change some things to solve our problems long-term, not just this fiscal year or this month,” Landers said. “So I think the state needs to do the same thing. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be comfortable for people, and there’s going to be some changes that people don’t like, but they’ve got to face reality.”
The library was not the only local service affected by the governor’s law. The local fire department was hit as well. Fire Chief Ron Oliver couldn’t state his position on Proposition 22, but said he hoped that if it did pass in November, his full staff would be restored. As of now, three of 55 firefighter positions are vacant, and the Deputy Chief position is vacant as well because of lack of funding.
“I hope that we would get the money back to hire the Deputy Chief and three firefighters if the money passed with Prop 22,” Oliver said. “That’s what all fire chiefs want, to have full staff so that we can respond appropriately to the community.”
Santa Cruz Metro also came out in support of the Proposition. Tove Beatty, Legislative Analyst for the Metro, said the law was not fair because the governor was robbing the community of its local funding.
“I think that if the voters have gone to the ballot box and designated particular funding for a particular cause or service that they want, that the governor shouldn’t be able to take it away whenever he wants to,” Beatty said. “And that’s what’s happened here. The governor felt free to take that money away without asking the voters or anyone else about it.”
Though the proposition would put power back into local hands, it will not restore that money already lost.
“We don’t ever plan on seeing that money again,” Beatty said.
Santa Cruz Mayor, Cynthia Mathews also sees the benefit that Proposition 22 would bring to the city. In an email to City on a Hill Press, she stated the reason for her approval.
“These tax raids of local tax dollars have been absolutely devastating to cities across the state, including Santa Cruz,” Mathews said. “They’ve forced us to make deep cuts in vital local services – things like police, fire, parks, youth programs, libraries, road repairs and public transit.”
To Mathews this is unacceptable. Opponents of Proposition 22 hold the position that the state budget will be slashed considerably, which would have the same result – dilapidated services at the local level..
Mathews believes the funds should still be restored to local governments like Santa Cruz.
“During these very tough economic times we have more than enough challenges already, eliminating jobs, cutting programs and limiting the services we can provide,” Mathews said.“Further state raids on our limited local funds will seriously erode the quality of life in our community.”