The Metropolitan Forum Project Reviving Citizen Civic Engagement

A new enemy of tax sharing

By Art Campos

Sacramento Bee

Jan 3, 2002

Roseville put up $10,000 Wednesday to join other cities in a public relations campaign against a sales tax-sharing bill proposed by Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg.

The Sacramento Democrat's legislation, AB 680, would cap sales tax revenue for each city in the six-county Sacramento region and redistribute any increase in the revenue to local governments on a per capita basis.

Roseville officials estimated the city would lose $18 million in sales tax during the first seven years under the proposed law. By 2020, the city would have lost about $86 million, officials said.

"Police, fire, library and park services would be affected. It would be a serious impact on the city," said Russ Branson, city finance director.

In approving the $10,000, the Roseville City Council said it was joining Rocklin, Auburn, Elk Grove, Yuba City and West Sacramento in supporting a public relations strategy against AB 680.

Steinberg, a former Sacramento City Council member, said he understands the initial opposition to his plan.

But he said Roseville and other cities in the region need to come up with an alternative to the current system of sales tax collection, which he called "dysfunctional."

"No amount of public relations can obscure the challenges that we face in the region," Steinberg said. "We have among the worst traffic congestion and air pollution in the country.

"The Sacramento region is going to have 1 million new people by 2020. We had better be ready for it."

Steinberg said his bill, which is supported by the city and county of Sacramento, would remove the willingness of local governments to keep approving large auto malls, retail centers and "big box" stores for the sake of generating tax dollars for their cities.

Supporters of AB 680 say that such land-use decisions lead to suburban sprawl, traffic congestion and loss of open space.

Critics of the bill, however, say the proposal is a "money grab" by Steinberg so that he could inject new money into the budgets of the city and county of Sacramento.

"The people who would be hurt by this bill are on the outer areas of Sacramento," said Roseville City Councilman Earl Rush. "Darrell Steinberg's district would get the benefits."

Roseville officials are highly sensitive to the potential loss of revenue because of recent court rulings that declared the city's collection of utility user taxes and in-lieu franchise fees illegal.

The city, which has appealed the decisions, would lose about $11 million annually if the court rulings stand.

Roseville has established a reserve fund for the possible payoff of refund claims and has readied a plan to cut expenses by delaying building or renovation of parks and the construction of a community center and a branch library.

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