Friday, March 23, 2012 The CSAC Bulletin
Government Finance and Operations
For more information, please contact Jean Kinney Hurst at 916.650.8133 or Geoffrey Neill at 916.650.8115.


State Budget

Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 4 heard an issue of interest to counties at their meeting on Tuesday, March 20. The item relates specifically to Amador and Mono Counties, which find themselves in or near the position where all of their school entities qualify as “basic aid” schools. Because of this, they have no source of reimbursement for the ‘Triple Flip’ and ‘VLF Swap’ financing mechanisms.

When the state took county and city revenue to pay its Economic Recovery Bonds, then allowed locals the ability to reimburse themselves with school property taxes, which the state itself then backfills (the triple flip), there was no doubt that the final responsibility for paying those debts remained with the state. Likewise, when the state cut the Vehicle License Fee, the revenues of which went directly to counties and cities, then gave locals some property tax to fill in the resulting gap, there was no doubt that the commitment to reimburse was ongoing.

However, these counties now find those commitments in jeopardy, so the Governor included this funding in his January budget proposal. The Assembly subcommittee, like the Senate subcommittee two weeks ago, heard testimony, then left this item open to decide at a later date.

Elections

AB 1436 (Feuer) – Oppose Unless Amended
As Amended on March 20, 2012

AB 1436, by Assembly Member Mike Feuer, would create a process for potential voters to register to vote and vote in the final two weeks before an election, and is very similar to last year’s SB 641, which failed to pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Currently, citizens must register at least fifteen days before an election to vote in that election.

The most populous counties in the state already struggle to certify their votes by the end of the 28-day canvass period. AB 1436 would add significantly to that struggle by requiring counties to process large numbers of voter registration forms and provisional ballots. Verifying and counting provisional ballots are by far the most time-consuming processes that county registrars must undertake during the canvass; AB 1436 would increase the number of provisional ballots by multiples.

The new law would increase election departments’ workloads by, firstly, all the provisional ballots from voters that would not otherwise have registered, but, more importantly, by the provisional ballots from all of the voters that, absent this law, would have met the 14-day deadline but with it see no need to do so.

If this policy is an issue of statewide concern, as passing this mandate would indicate, then the state should be willing to use statewide revenues to pay the cost. Alternatively, the state could authorize counties to implement this program where it is a local priority.

The Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee will consider AB 1436 at its hearing next Tuesday, March 27.

Taxes

SB 954 (Liu) – Support
As Amended on March 1, 2012

SB 954, by Senator Carol Liu, would allow the State Controller to, at the request of a county or city, offset any payments due to people from the unclaimed property held by the state in order to pay debts those people owe the county or city. This authority already exists for offsetting tax refunds and lottery winnings. The bill would provide an appeal process for people who believe the billing was in error. The Controller’s office estimates that this program would have recovered $3.5 million in 2010-11 had it been in place.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday was canceled, and the committee now plans to consider SB 954 at its hearing next Wednesday, March 28.