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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS : GOVERNOR : Brown Vows to Halt State Taking of Local Funds : Democratic candidate says she'd shrink government. Her goal is to avoid Gov. Wilson's practice of shifting city and county revenues to Sacramento to help balance state budget.

October 25, 1994|BILL STALL | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

State Treasurer Kathleen Brown won repeated applause Monday from about 1,500 municipal officials when she pledged to cut the size of California government if elected governor, rather than continue the practice of seizing local government revenues to balance the state budget.

"While you've been cutting and reinventing yourselves, Sacramento has been getting fatter and more complacent and living off your resources," Brown told delegates to the annual convention of the League of California Cities in Long Beach.

Brown accused Republican Gov. Pete Wilson of breaking the bond of partnership and trust between state and local government in California the past four years by repeatedly appropriating city and county property taxes to meet state budget needs.

Part of the local loss was made up by a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters, with Wilson's backing, in a 1993 special election. The money is earmarked for fire, police and other public safety functions.

Brown noted in her speech that Wilson pledged when he was first running for governor four years ago that "we need to change the attitude that Sacramento knows best." He promised an activist state administration that would free local government from many of the spending mandates and restrictions imposed by the state.

The reality has included a $7-billion tax increase, record state borrowing and the usurping of local property tax revenues, Brown said. She added that she did not blame Wilson for the recession and the wrenching economic changes that cut sharply into state revenues, "but it's his response that I hold him accountable for and it is his response that I think is wrong."

"When things get bad, they don't worry. They turn around and cut you," Brown told the local officials, referring to state officials in Sacramento. "That is wrong and it doesn't make good economic sense either, because you are the engine of our economic growth."

After her speech, Brown held a news conference with many of the 85 California mayors who support her candidacy. Wilson is scheduled to address the convention this afternoon and has arranged for his own endorsement ceremony afterward.

At her news conference, Brown was asked if Democrats who control the state Legislature shouldn't be blamed as well as Wilson for the state's fiscal problems.

"Sure," she said. "It's a co-dependence."

But Brown added that Wilson bears the major responsibility because he is the state's chief executive officer who controls the state budget.

"I want less government," Brown added. "That's what my plan is all about, less government, not more government."

In her address, Brown also was applauded when she promised to work for a proposed state ballot measure to reduce the requirement for passage of local bond issues from the existing two-thirds vote to a simple majority.

Wilson has supported the change in the case of bonds that raise money for new schools. Brown said it should apply to all local facilities, such as sewage treatment plants.

Brown also said she had agreed to a pledge put to the two candidates by the mayors of California's 10 largest cities in a letter dated Sept. 8. The mayors asked them to promise "that I will not reduce or transfer property taxes, sales taxes, vehicle license fees or other local revenues upon which cities depend in order to balance the state budget."

"I took that pledge," Brown said to applause. "I pledge that if the cutting is to begin, let it finally begin in Sacramento, in the Sacramento bureaucracy."

Those who wrote the letter include Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who is backing Wilson for reelection, and San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, who was identified by the Brown campaign Monday as a Brown supporter.

In a three-page response dated Monday, Wilson declined to take the pledge, saying, "Unlike Kathleen Brown, I won't make irresponsible election-year pledges simply to win votes. . . . None of us can ever guarantee what the future will bring."

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