For better and worse, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that the California legislature had not violated the state constitution in seizing some $2 billion from hundreds of local redevelopment authorities across the state, money that will continue to be used to cover educational shortfalls within the state’s sagging budget. This is good news in that it does not further imperil already tenuous state finances that have pretty much been trimmed well into the marrow. At the same time, as we detailed last year, this is an unprecedented taking of local funds—covered through special property taxes having nothing to do with the Legislature—that could also imperil the state’s economy by limiting the work the redevelopment authorities can do, work that often times goes to architects.
The group representing the 397 authorities has already decided to appeal the ruling and is requesting a stay on the taking of the money pending that appeal. In a statement, John Shirey, executive director of the group, the California Redevelopment Association, argued this gives the Legislature undue power:
We strongly disagree with Judge Connelly’s ruling which effectively says the Legislature has unlimited discretion to redirect local redevelopment funds to any purpose it wishes. Under that logic any state program could be called redevelopment. The Legislature needs to deal with its budget problems by making hard decisions using its own limited resources—not by taking away local government funds.
Meanwhile, a Schwarzenegger spokesperson tells the Times that being overruled on the case would have compounded the state’s budget problems. As for the association’s continued legal challenges, it’s a battle the group has won before, and quite possibly could do again. It’s worth noting, though, that the judge who supported the association’s efforts last year was the same one who denied them this go round. Whatever the outcome, its impacts will likely be felt for years to come.