Who Moved the Pea? | SierraSun.com

Who Moved the Pea?

Stephen L. Wright, Town Manager

Watch out! They’re at it again and if we’re not paying attention they’ll do it to us a second time! Who are they, you ask. Why the State government of course D and I’m talking about your tax dollars. The State is coming upon their latest fiscal crisis and there is a very great likelihood that they will take local tax dollars D your tax dollars D to balance their budget. And you stand to lose. What you will lose will be local services, which could mean police, fire, recreation or any of the other services that local governments here in Truckee provide.

Do you remember the old shell game, where the con man places a pea under one of the shells and then moves them around so fast that you lose track of where the pea is? Well, with the State of California, it has happened before and it can happen again. The State is short of money D whether it’s from over spending during the good years, the energy crisis, the dot com collapse or who knows what. The fact of the matter is that they are billions short and are looking for ways to make it up.

You may remember the shell game in the early ’90’s when the State had its last funding crisis. They didn’t have enough money to fund schools and not funding schools was not politically acceptable, so E. the shells started moving! The State created the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund and came up with a way to fund the schools. They took their money and gave it to the schools and then they took property tax dollars from cities and counties and gave it to themselves to make up their shortfall. The schools were funded and the State budget was balanced. And when the State became financially healthy a few years later, they conveniently forgot to repay the cities and counties where they took the money from to begin with.

Now, be careful because the pea is moving again, and local tax dollars are at risk. For example, remember a couple of years ago when times were good for the State and they decided to give you a tax rebate in the form of reduced vehicle license fees? Well those fees didn’t ever go to the State in the first place; they came to local government for local services. What the State did was to take some of the surplus funds that they had at the time and “backfill” the loss to local governments. Now that the State is short of funds they may have to keep the “backfill” to balance their own budget. See how quickly the pea can move?

Because of past State actions, local governments and local revenues are already part of the State budget solution. Local services should not withstand further cuts. The problem is that we don’t know what the State is going to do for another month or so. But that also creates an opportunity for action. Please take a very short bit of time to write to the Governor, our Assemblyman and our Senator. Just say, “Please do not balance your budget on the backs of local government”. They should tighten their belt just as you and I have to do when money is tight. Let them know that you need local services. The Town Council and the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce have already taken a strong position on this issue, and individual citizen and business letters do make a real difference. Please write to Governor Gray Davis, 1st Floor, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814; Senator Rico Oller, Capitol Building #2048, Sacramento, CA 95814; and Assemblyman Sam Aanestad, Capitol Building #4144, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Thanks. The pea is still hidden, but the shells are on the move.