Local News RoundUp

The Local News RoundUp is the League's daily news clipping service of articles related to California cities and local government.

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February 23, 2017

 
TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE
SB1 could generate millions for county roads and state highways (Times Standard)
Senate Bill 1, a statewide transportation tax to repair county roads and state highways, might be the last chance for Humboldt County to fix its road infrastructure according to Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass. The bill, which is co-authored by state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), will provide the largest investment in state road funds in decades and provide $8.9 million for county roads over a five year period, McGuire said. McGuire also said the lack of investment has impacted not only the county but the entire state for the past few decades and added that, if implemented, for every billion the state makes in transportation taxes, it will contribute to about 14,000 jobs statewide.
Eureka, Fortuna, Arcata, Ferndale, Blue Lake, Rio Dell, Trinidad
 
Californians opposed to Governor’s transportation plan (Public Policy Institute of California)
In PPIC’s most recent statewide survey, 61% of Californians say that spending more money on the maintenance of roads, highways, and bridges is very important for California’s future quality of life and economic vitality. At the same time, a majority of Californians (54%) oppose the governor’s proposal to do so. His transportation funding plan would provide $43 billion of additional spending for state and local transportation projects, with money coming from a new $65 vehicle fee and an increase in gasoline and diesel taxes. Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to the governor’s proposal and independents are divided. Among Democrats, a slight majority (53%) favor the plan while 42% oppose it.
Statewide
 
Our View: GOP transportation plan makes sense (Daily Press)
The Democrat-controlled legislature is preoccupied with protecting illegal immigrants, fighting President Donald Trump and coming up with new schemes to raise taxes so they have a new funnel of taxpayer dollars to waste. That's why it was so inspiring to see the transportation funding plan Assembly Republicans, including co-author Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia), put together last week. Assembly Bill 496 is officially called the Traffic Relief and Road Improvement Act, or TRRIP for short. These are solid principles that seem like common sense. But the reality in Sacramento is that the Democrats and their Super Majority cannot live by any of them. Or at least they haven't so far.
Statewide
 
HOMELESSNESS/POVERTY
A deal on homelessness that can’t be refused (Sacramento Bee)
Mayor Darrell Steinberg doesn’t want to hear the words “stop,” “no,” “wait” or “we can’t” when it comes to getting thousands of homeless people off Sacramento’s streets and into permanent housing. The key is a windfall of about $40 million from local and federal tax dollars and Sutter Health. The money would pay for addiction treatment and mental health services for hundreds of homeless people, and provide aid to others in danger of becoming homeless. To secure the money, all Sacramento County has to do is go along with Steinberg and set aside 1,600 federal housing vouchers and public housing units for chronically homeless people, as well chip in a few million dollars to the cause. It’s a deal the Board of Supervisors can’t afford to refuse. As a matter of principle, the supervisors shouldn’t.
Sacramento
 
WATER/DROUGHT
The verdict after all that rain? Most of California is out of the drought (Los Angeles Times)
ear ago, some Californians never thought this day would come. But after being battered by weeks of record-setting rain, the vast majority of the state is out of drought. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, less than 20% of the state faces any drought conditions and no place in California faces “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. In recent weeks, parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties remain in serious drought. But the recent rains appear to have solved that problem. Cachuma Lake in that region rose 31 feet during the rains. And this dramatic time lapse video show how much it changed. A year ago, more than 90% of the state was still in some form of drought. Parts of Northern California are on track to have their wettest winter on record, with the storms causing major flooding and massive snow deposits. Southern California is having its wettest winter in years.
Statewide
 
TAX/REVENUE
California’s poor leave $2 billion in tax credits unclaimed (San Francisco Chronicle)
California’s poorest families left an estimated $2 billion on the table last year in unclaimed state and federal tax credits designed to give bigger cash refunds to low-income workers. Nearly 400,000 Californians filed for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit last year, far fewer than the 2 million people who were eligible for it, state officials said Wednesday. That meant the state paid out just $200 million in cash refunds — roughly half of what it set aside for the program. Nearly 3 million Californians claimed the federal tax break last year, also less than the number eligible. Together, unclaimed dollars from both the federal and state programs amounts to $2 billion, according to the governor’s office. Now state officials are trying to let more eligible people know about money they might qualify for this tax season.
Statewide
 
California voters could make it easier to raise taxes to build transit and low-income housing under new legislation (Los Angeles Times)
A Sacramento-area assemblywoman wants Californians to decide if it should be easier to raise taxes or issue bonds to finance transit, water, parks and low-income housing projects. Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) has proposed a constitutional amendment that would lower the margin needed for local governments to pass a tax hike or bond measure to pay for such efforts from a two-thirds supermajority to 55%. Because the measure is a constitutional amendment, it will require a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Legislature to pass. If that happens, state voters will decide whether to lower the threshold to pass these tax hikes in 2018. Nearly 80% of two-thirds supermajority measures put before local voters since 2001 garnered more than 55% “yes” votes, but ultimately failed because they fell short of the two-thirds threshold, according to Aguilar-Curry's office. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has proposed a similar constitutional amendment to lower the threshold for passage, but only for transportation projects.
Statewide
 
California wants to give a tax credit to the working poor but people aren’t signing up (Sacramento Bee)
California officials and nonprofit groups want to encourage poverty-level workers to take advantage of the state’s earned income tax credit, which put an average of $519 in the pockets of people who received it in the 2015 tax year. The biggest challenge, supporters say, is getting eligible workers who file a tax return to claim the credit, as well as encouraging workers who don’t file a return to do so and take advantage of the program. Created as part of the 2015-16 budget package, the credit program paid out almost $200 million to more than 385,000 taxpayers for the 2015 tax year. So far for the 2016 tax year, almost $65 million in credits has been issued to 106,338 filers, an average of $611. Brown’s 2017-18 proposed budget expects $264 million in credits claimed.
Statewide
 
PENSION
Republicans are fighting to reduce union influence over California's biggest public employee pension fund (Los Angeles Times)
A quarter of a century after a bitter political fight for control of California’s largest public employee pension fund, a new effort by Republicans in the state Capitol seeks to again dilute the influence of public employee unions by reshaping the agency’s board of directors. The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), would add two members to the board that oversees the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, CalPERS. It would also reshape the qualifications for three of the existing 13 positions on the board, either by requiring additional expertise or by limiting participation from those with a connection to public employee unions. A spokeswoman for Allen said his busy schedule and a delayed flight made him unavailable Wednesday to comment on his proposal, Assembly Bill 1311. The makeup of the CalPERS board membership was enshrined in the California Constitution in 1992 by voters.
Statewide
 
MARIJUANA
Cities and counties tell legislators they're struggling to keep up with the legalized marijuana industry (Los Angeles Times)
As state officials scramble to begin licensing marijuana sales by the end of the year, cities and counties have already begun issuing their own permits for medical pot and putting local regulations and taxes in place, officials said Wednesday. City and county officials throughout California testified during a hearing of the Assembly Local Government Committee and said problems are already cropping up. They include skyrocketing property prices in popular growing areas that are keeping out farms that don't grow pot, large sums of cash handled outside of banks and inadequate staffing that has slowed the process of issuing and enforcing local licenses. Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, banks will not handle revenue from sellers, so dispensary operators brought $4.6 million in cash to Sacramento City Hall to pay taxes and fees last year, according to Randi Knott, director of government affairs for the city.
Statewide
 
CITY IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Sacramento will hire teens for parks jobs and expand youth programs (Sacramento Bee)
By a unanimous vote, council members moved to dedicate nearly $600,000 toward programs like the one that helped Dickson, and others that provide parks jobs, internships and training for Sacramento teenagers. It includes money to hire 25 young people to work part-time landscaping city parks and four program leaders that the city hopes will be promoted from the ranks of its young workers. The council also approved buying 10 F-150 Ford pickup trucks at a cost of $310,482 to support the new workers. Currently, the city rents some of those maintenance vehicles at a cost of about $86,000 annually. By purchasing the vehicles, the city will be able to employ younger youth program leaders, since rental agreements currently mandate that drivers be at least 25 years old, and reinvest the saved lease payments into youth programs.
Sacramento
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