Counties and local law enforcement groups filed an initiative today that would require the state to continue paying them billions of dollars each year for new duties such as housing inmates and overseeing parolees.
The measure, dubbed the "Local Taxpayers, Public Safety and Local Services Protection Act of 2012," does not ask voters to raise taxes. It would enshrine a new arrangement in which California gives local governments a 1.06-cent share of the state sales tax, worth about $5.1 billion, as well as a portion of state vehicle taxes.
The money would pay for the state's "realignment" plan that began Oct. 1, which transferred significant functions to the local level. The most controversial involves redirecting new inmates and parolees to county supervision. Local officials want a constitutional guarantee they will continue receiving money to carry out those duties, as well as functions such as mental health care, substance abuse treatment and child welfare services.
The coalition includes the California State Association of Counties, California State Sheriffs' Association and Chief Probation Officers of California. Leaders of the groups have said that even though their initiative does not include tax hikes, they are still willing to join a broader team of school officials and business leaders working with Gov. Jerry Brown to ask voters for a tax hike next November.
"Passing a measure to protect local funding is absolutely vital to protect the public safety and to provide local law enforcement officers the resources we need to take on the added responsibility that was just shifted from the state to local government," Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, head of the sheriffs' association, said in a statement.
School officials have quietly expressed reservations about the local government initiative, and Brown said in September he had not decided whether the local funding protection should be separate from a tax measure. School groups fear they could be at greater risk for budget cuts if voters reject taxes but approve a funding protection for counties and law enforcement.
But local officials said last month they did not want their future funding dependent on voter approval of taxes because polling on taxes has been dicey.
The measure itself reflects some of the skepticism local leaders have about state funding promises. It retroactively blocks the state from transferring any more realignment duties to local governments without funding, dating back to Oct. 9 of this year. It requires the state to increase funds for local governments in instances where federal funding declines.
It also has a special carve-out for public safety functions, stating that the state cannot reduce funding for corrections duties unless it has a four-fifths vote of the Legislature, an unusually high threshold.
Update (4:50 p.m.): Brown press secretary Gil Duran said the governor has no comment because he has not had a chance to review the initiative.