10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, September 4, 2011


Inland cities hope they prevail before the California Supreme Court and save redevelopment without paying the state millions of dollars.

But in the meantime, they aren’t risking it.

Most cities in the region have already taken votes to participate in a new voluntary redevelopment program and make payments to the state.

“I would like to remove the word ‘voluntary’ and put ‘ransom’ in there,” Lake Elsinore Councilman Brian Tisdale said when the council voted to participate.

“This is a bad deal,” he said at an August council meeting. “It is unfortunate that we were pushed into this position.”

Under budget legislation signed in June, cities and counties statewide collectively must pay $1.7 billion to the state this year to save their redevelopment agencies. The money will help balance the state’s $86 billion general fund budget.

If they don’t pay, their agencies — which keep a share of an area’s property tax revenue to fund everything from roadwork to community centers — will cease to exist and the revenue will go to the state instead.

Ever since Gov. Jerry Brown first proposed eliminating redevelopment in January, local officials have fought to save the program. They have organized to lobby against the changes, held news conferences and touted what they see as redevelopment’s success in helping fund community improvements.

In July, the League of California Cities, the California Redevelopment Association and two Bay Area cities sued the state to prevent the legislation from taking effect Oct. 1.

The California Supreme Court last month agreed to hear the case. Until the court rules, the state is prevented from moving ahead with the plan to eliminate the agencies. The agencies cannot take on any new debt to fund future projects.

The court is likely to hear arguments after the Oct. 7 deadline for legal briefs and expects to make a ruling by mid-January.

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