Government Finance and Operations 07/15/2011
Property Tax Administration
AB 946 (Butler) – Request for Comment
As Amended on July 13, 2011
AB 946, by Assembly Member Betsy Butler, was amended on Tuesday to restart the State-County Property Tax Administration Program, affectionately known as PTAP.
Under the program, counties could obtain loans to enhance the property tax administration system, not supplant current funding. Enhancements would include improving the performance, efficiency, and automation of the systems and reducing backlogs related to assessment appeals, Proposition 8 declines in value, new construction, ownership changes, and supplemental rolls. The program would make a maximum of $80 million available statewide, and each county would be eligible for a loan up to a specified amount determined by their proportion of statewide local assessments.
The previous PTAP program was very successful, and CSAC will be working with Assessors and the author to ensure that the new program is designed to achieve the same success while also protecting other county interests. Please forward any comments you or your county have about the bill to Geoffrey Neill or Jean Kinney Hurst.
AB 187 (Lara) – Concerns
As Amended on June 22, 2011
Assembly Bill 187, by Assembly Member Ricardo Lara, would authorize the State Auditor to establish a high-risk local government agency audit program to identify, audit, and issue reports on any local government agency program that the Auditor identifies as being at high risk for the potential of waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement or that has major challenges associated with its economy, efficiency, or effectiveness.
CSAC has communicated to the author and Legislature concerns that AB 187 sets up a process that is new and unfamiliar to most local agencies. Counties rarely deal with the Bureau of State Audits and, as a result, the new authority proposed by AB 187 creates significant uncertainty as to how an agency is identified as a high-risk agency and the extent of the audit activities.
Specific criteria for meeting the high-risk category would at least provide local agencies with an understanding of the potential for audit by the State Auditor, especially since the costs of complying with an audit could be substantial. Given that there are several of measures that also provide new authority to the State Controller to audit local agencies (SB 186, for example), the criteria for each type of intervention, whether by the State Auditor or the State Controller, should be clear and distinct. As currently drafted, some of the bills create overlapping and duplicative oversight authority.
AB 187 is but one of many bills attempting to provide greater state oversight and transparency for local government agencies in light of the scandal in the City of Bell. CSAC shares the Legislature’s interest in rebuilding public trust in government, which has unfortunately been tainted by the egregious actions of a few dishonorable officials. However, the Legislature must ensure that the measures that move forward in response are narrowly tailored, reasonable to implement, and internally consistent so as to not create unnecessary administrative burdens for local jurisdictions that could interfere with those jurisdictions’ ability to deliver vital services — especially those in difficult financial circumstances.
The Senate Appropriations Committee placed AB 187 at its suspense file at its Monday hearing.
AB 732 (Buchanan) – Support
As Amended on May 10, 2011
AB 732, by Assembly Member Joan Buchanan, would require the fiscal summary for statewide bond measures to include a table, and for that table to appear in the circulating title and summary and in the ballot pamphlet analysis.
The California Constitution requires voter approval for large amounts of state debt. Current law requires the Attorney General and the Legislative Analyst to prepare summaries that help voters decide whether to place items on the ballot and whether to pass them when they appear on the ballot. These summaries include fiscal effects.
AB 732 would require these summaries to include a table of the fiscal effects, which would provide an easy-to-understand source of information about the bond’s fiscal effects. It is important for voters to understand both benefits and the fiscal effects of bonds when considering them.
The Senate Appropriations Committee determined that AB 732 has little to no cost and moved the bill to the Senate Floor.
AB 1021 (Gordon) – Support
As Amended May 19, 2011
AB 1021, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, would require voter notification when proposed ballot measures would significantly increase net costs.
Voters love to decide policy using California’s expansive and inflexible initiative system. Current law requires the Attorney General and the Legislative Analyst to prepare summaries that help voters decide whether to place items on the ballot and whether to pass them when they are on the ballot. These summaries include fiscal effects.
AB 1021 would require these summaries to notify voters when a ballot measure would establish or expand a program costing more than $1 million without providing for new revenue or offsetting savings. Many ballot measures impose costs on counties, and many others that cost the state money put pressure on state funding for programs counties provide on the state’s behalf. Voters should be notified clearly of the effects of their decisions.
The Senate Appropriations Committee determined that AB 1021 has little to no cost and moved the bill to the Senate Floor.
Local Tax Authority
SB 223 (Leno) – Support
As Introduced February 9, 2011
SB 223, by Senator Mark Leno, would have authorize a county to place a measure before voters to impose an assessment on vehicles owned by that county’s residents. Senator Leno amended the bill last week (July 11) to apply only to the City and County of San Francisco.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee will consider SB 223 when the Legislature returns from their summer recess.
SB 3 (Padilla) – Support
As Amended on June 20, 2011
SB 3, by Senator Alex Padilla, would extend to 2015 authority for the CPUC to use the California High-Cost Funds A and B to support telephone and broadband services in high-cost service areas, primarily rural, and to support small independent providers. It would also explicitly require contributions to the fund from Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) revenues.
The high-cost funds, A and B, subsidize the cost of providing telecommunication services to rural and hard-to-reach parts of the state. They are funded with surcharges on all telephone bills and help ensure that access to phone and broadband services are universal, to everyone’s benefit. This ensures that residents of rural counties and the hard-to-reach places in all counties have affordable access to the telecommunications system that is so important to our economy, our safety, and our daily lives.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee referred SB 3 to its suspense file at its hearing on Wednesday, July 13.