If you happen to have access to the Orange County Register, either through print or online, you may have heard that Diane Harkey announced a possible deal to resolve the loss of $54 million in Vehicle License Fee (VLF) revenues. According to the OC Register:
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, announced the pact on Twitter, writing Friday afternoon, “Orange County has struck a deal with the state.”
The funding loss occurred when Governor Brown figured out in 2011 that the state no longer was required to give Orange County that funding because the county had refinanced its bankruptcy debt. When the county initially structured the financing for it’s more than $1 billion in debt, they had to get the state to dedicate their share of VLF to pay the loans. When the County refinanced the debt in 2005, county leaders ignored warnings and failed to negotiate the continuance of those funds through a property tax swap. The governor figured out the county’s mistake and kept the VLF funding. In response the county, through former Auditor Controller David Sundstrom, decided to keep $73 million in property tax revenues. The state to sued and the county lost.
As a result the county will need to pay the state back $146 million in addition to finding a way to fill the ongoing hole created by the loss of funding. The deal was not, as the OC Register story would have you believe, the result of efforts by Assemblywoman Harkey. While they got the part right about the involvement of Senator Lou Correa, the potential deal was reached in large part due to the efforts of Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva. In fact, it has been the past antics of the Orange County Republican legislative delegation that is the primary cause of resistance to reaching a deal on the part of the Governor and democrats in the legislature. Put simply, Harkey and her republican colleagues have been part of the problem, not the solution.
The enabling legislation will be introduced in a bill authored by Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva, that will be amended and reintroduced in the State Senate. We are baffled, though not surprised, that the OC Register managed to leave out such an important detail. We have to wonder if their resistance to publicizing this fact has more to do with not wanting to give any credit to a freshman democratic legislator, than a simply journalistic, or editorial, oversight.
If you want to know more about the possible deal, we recommend that your read the coverage by Voice of OC here for two reasons. 1) The coverage isn’t hidden behind the OCR pay-wall, and 2) It’s more accurate.