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Veto Messages on Infrastructure-Related Bills Point to Revisiting Issue in 2013

October 5, 2012

Veto messages are not usually the place to seek inspiration, but they can provide a window into a Governor’s thinking. So when Gov. Jerry Brown opted to veto all of the various infrastructure-related bills on his desk last week, including SB 214 (Wolk), which was supported by the League, it is worth reviewing these messages both for what they say and don’t say.


Importantly, what the veto message on SB 214, as well as a similar message on AB 2144 (Pérez), did not say was that the Governor had a policy problem with the proposed legislation. 

Here is Gov. Brown’s veto message on SB 214:

“This bill eliminates the voter requirement for a city or county to create an infrastructure financing district and expands the types of projects that may be financed by such an entity.This measure would likely cause cities to focus their efforts on using the new tools provided in the measure instead of winding down redevelopment. This would prevent the state from achieving the General Fund Savings assumed in this year’s budget.” 

Negative reactions to this language are to be expected. Many city officials would disagree on the “focus” issue in the message. Setting up an Infrastructure Financing District would require time for local discussion and consensus-building before launching. Legal experts and bond markets would also need to get comfortable before the tool could be implemented. Doubts remain however on whether the state can achieve the “assumed” state budget savings, with recent reports indicating that state has received only $371.7 million out of an assumed $3.1 billion. 

The veto of SB 214 is obviously disappointing for communities that are ready to move on and were looking to use tax-increment financing to address infrastructure issues and create jobs.  Next year could have been a time for preparing new economic foundations. Now, regrettably, it appears instead 2013 will be  another year of state officials sifting through redevelopment Recognized Obligation Payment Schedules (ROPS), asset lists, and other required documents looking for budget tidbits to benefit the state general fund. 

On a more positive note, in his veto message on SB 1156 (Steinberg), the Governor said: 

“I am committed to working with the Legislature and interested parties on the important task of revitalizing our communities.” 

This is a good signal. Perhaps when the Governor is signing bills in September 2013 local and state officials can begin to work together again to restore California’s infrastructure and economic competitiveness.

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