By Mario Conde
As Redevelopment agencies and Enterprise Zones future is in question, State lawmakers could reform the entities and not eliminate them.
This according to Assemblyman Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) who said he supports RDA and Enterprise zones and will work along other lawmakers to reform rather than to phase out. Perez said Friday during the re-opening of the Calexico Cultural Arts Center that he sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown letting him know his opposition to eliminate these two agencies. Perez, who chairs the committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy, has worked on a reform legislation to ensure enterprise zones and redevelopment agency funding for communities are protected. California will face a $25.4 billion deficit through the end of June 2012, including an $8.2 billion shortfall in the fiscal year that ends in July.
Perez said that he and other legislators have identified problems with the enterprise zones and are working on reforms to make it better. “When I approach the Governor’s proposal, first and foremost I want to ensure that proposed solutions do not trigger massive job losses. At the same time, it’s important that essential state services are provided in the most efficient manner possible. Next, we need to enact a budget that is not only balanced, but also puts us on a disciplined, multi-year program to eliminate the structural deficit. And, last, of particular concern for me, is making sure that rural areas are not disproportionately harmed by budget decisions.”
Perez does not believe that RDA’s and Enterprise Zones will be eliminated but supports the efforts of the City of Calexico and El Centro to mobilize against the Governor’s proposal. “Gov. Brown has been very up front about addressing our deficit and its underlying causes, and I applaud that. Though we know this means leaner times for all, we also need to make sure that our final budget solution is crafted in a way that does not disproportionately harm rural and traditionally underserved areas.” Perez said.
“With regard to the proposed elimination of the state’s Enterprise Zone program, I am of course concerned. Job retention and creation is essential for our economic recovery, and eliminating the state’s last economic development tool has significant ramifications for the state.” Perez said and continued, “Through hearings, round tables and working groups, the Jobs Committee has identified a number of proposals to refine and strengthen the program, to make it even more accountable and responsive to the communities it serves. In the coming weeks, I intend to introduce reform legislation that incorporates these ideas. In the meantime, I have reached out to the Governor to brief him on our work, and I look forward to a productive discussion.” the assemblyman said.
State Controller John Chiang today announced his auditors were beginning reviews of 18 redevelopment agencies (RDA) across the state in an effort to obtain facts on how RDA funds are used and the extent to which they comply with laws governing their activities.
“The heated debate over whether RDAs are the engines of local economic and job growth or are simply scams providing windfalls to political cronies at the expense of public services has largely been based on anecdotal evidence,” Chiang said. “As lawmakers deliberate the Governor’s proposal to close RDAs and divert those funds to local schools and public safety agencies, I believe it is important to provide factual, empirical information about how these agencies perform and what they bring to the communities they serve.”
The 18 RDAs selected for the reviews represent urban, suburban and rural communities. They are geographically diverse and represent a mix of varying populations. The reviews will look at, among other things, how the RDAs define a “blighted” area, whether they are appropriately paying for low- and moderate-income housing as required by law, whether they are accurately “passing through” payments to schools within their community, and how much RDA officials, board members and employees are being compensated for their services.
Governor Jerry Brown proposed to eliminate all redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones by next fiscal year in order to save up to $6 billion dollars to close down the budget deficit. If the Governor’s proposal is successful, these agencies could be gone the first day of next fiscal year in July.