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More than 180 California cities vow to sue state if budget is passed

July 22, 2009 |  5:42 pm

More than 180 California cities have passed resolutions threatening to sue the state if lawmakers approve a budget plan that would seize $4.7 billion in local funds to help close the state’s massive deficit, according to the League of California Cities.

Judy Mitchell, mayor of Rolling Hills Estates and president of the League of California Cities, described the budget proposal as a “ponzi scheme that passes off responsibility to future governors, legislators and to our taxpayers.”

The plan announced Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders uses a variety of means to essentially shift part of the state’s $26.3-billion budget deficit to city and county governments. The prospect of losing $313 million in redevelopment funds and $109 million in gasoline taxes prompted the lawsuit threat from Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday. The cities and league would join the L.A. County lawsuit.

“We want the governor and the Legislature to adopt an honest, credible budget that does not rely on illegal, irresponsible and reckless gimmicks that prevent local governments from doing their jobs of delivering the critical services that they provide,” Mitchell said today.

Also present at today’s news conference were Los Angeles County Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky; Alhambra Police Chief Jim Hudson, president of the county police chiefs’ association; County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman; Duarte Councilwoman Lois Gaston, president of the California Contract Cities Assn.; and dozens of city officials.

Antonovich said the state government should reduce and streamline its own operations before engaging in “highway robbery” from local funds. Hudson and Freeman said local governments had already been forced to lay off staff in their police and fire departments to balance their own budgets and could not afford to make additional cuts.

“This budget, simply put, is a disaster for local government and public safety,” Hudson said.

 -- Alexandra Zavis at the L.A. County Hall of Administration