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Commentary: End State-Funded Redevelopment Zones

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, January 21, 2011

Given the state's $20 billion dollar plus deficit, it's hard to believe that California is actually subsidizing the "mermaid bar" that just opened in downtown Sacramento. The state also helped pay for renovating the building where Jerry Brown rents his Sacramento loft.

Thousands of projects across the state - everything from golf courses to shopping centers to four star hotels - are financed with redevelopment funds, property tax dollars that would otherwise go mostly to schools. By law, the state has to backfill the diverted funds, at a cost of some $5 billion dollars a year, further depleting the state's general fund.

The governor wants to phase out state sponsored redevelopment zones and shift responsibility to local governments and voters. So, if a city wants to use public dollars to subsidize a mermaid bar, the city council would have to persuade local voters to raise taxes to pay for it. Makes sense to me.

To thwart the governor, powerful special interests are rushing to jumpstart new projects - making it more difficult and expensive to rewind the redevelopment mess.

Legislators must act now.  Pass an urgency bill. Stop all new projects until the reform is debated and, I hope, enacted. If it's a mermaid bar versus my daughter's school - I'm for schools.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.

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