For all their claims of fiscal responsibility Republican elected officials, from the Board of Supervisors to the state legislative delegation, have demonstrated that ideological arrogance is a one way street to disaster. The victims of these disasters are the taxpayers of Orange County and, more directly, the taxpayers who rely on county services for support.
By now you are most likely aware that the county lost the suit filed by the state to recover about $147 million in two-years worth of property tax revenues, that the county refused to turn over after the state recognized it had been paying Vehicle License Fee (VLF) to the county that it wasn’t technically required to pay. In 2011, while trying to address a $20 billion budget shortfall, Governor Brown discovered the fact that the state was no longer required to send Orange County approximately $43 million annually in VLF funds.
This problem occurred when the county refinanced it’s bankruptcy debt in 2005. The financing terms for the bonds issued to pay off the county bankruptcy debt required that the state agree to assign a portion of the VLF money the county received from the state be directed to pay the bond debt service. When refinancing occurred, that was no longer required.
But even after being warned that legislation would be required to ensure that those funds continued to come to the county, the Republican majority on the Board did nothing. In a Voice of OC article in 2011, then Board Chairman Bill Campbell admitted; “we did drop the ball. I just don’t know why.”
At the time, then Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio attempted to pass legislation to secure a fix for the problem, but after the Republicans in the state legislature, led by the OC delegation, refused to work with the Governor on his budget proposals in any way, there was little legislative leverage to get anything passed.
So the County held back property taxes which, if all things were equal with the other counties in the state, Orange County would have been entitled to. Unfortunately for Orange County, the judge in the state’s lawsuit didn’t agree. The county has decided to appeal the ruling, but in the mean time, the County has been ordered to return the diverted funds.
State Senator Lou Correa and Orange County employee labor groups, led by the Orange County Employees Association, are working day and night to find a solution, while the Republican’s on the Board of Supervisors contemplate draconian cuts to services, including layoffs. The Orange County Republican legislators are powerless to influence the necessary corrective action, given the intransigence of Senate Minority Leader, Orange County Senator Bob Huff’s positions on most legislative issues. Huff, and the remainder of GOP legislators from Orange County are the leaders of the “Party of No” in Sacramento.
Hopes for a solution rest in the hands of democrats in Sacramento to clean up the mess that the republicans have made.
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