BY JIM MILLER
SACRAMENTO BUREAU
jmiller@pe.com

Published: 18 April 2012 10:22 PM

SACRAMENTO — Legislation that would restore a critical revenue stream for Riverside County’s newest cities cleared its first committee this morning, the first concrete success for the cities and their supporters following months of efforts to roll back part of last summer’s state budget.

Jurupa Valley, Eastvale, Wildomar and Menifee lost a combined $14 million when lawmakers approved an $86 billion budget that diverted vehicle-license fee money to pay for local law-enforcement grants. Officials in the cities warned of fiscal calamity, including possible disincorporation, if there is no fix.

The entire Jurupa Valley City Council and members of the other cities’ councils attended Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.

“We’re excited. That was a big hurdle to climb over,” Jurupa Valley Mayor Laura Roughton said after the vote. She testified that the city will be insolvent by mid-2015 without restoration of the license-fee revenue.

The bill also would direct $4 million to a handful of cities, including Fontana, that recently annexed inhabited areas. Fontana’s share would be an estimated $759,000.

The money was part of $200 million in vehicle-license fee revenue redirected last summer to replace an expired funding source for local law-enforcement grants. All cities lost money in the shift, based on their population.

Taking the biggest hit, though, were cities that have incorporated since 2004, all of which are in Riverside County. A 2006 law had given those cities an extra boost of license-fee revenue to help them get established, but last year’s state budget took it away.

The four cities contract with the Sheriff’s Department for law-enforcement services. Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff said the loss of revenue will reduce staffing levels below acceptable minimums, putting deputies at risk.

“We’re looking at cuts on the law enforcement side of anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent,” Sniff told the committee.

The measure passed unanimously. It still faces a rough road, however.

The Brown administration has not taken a position on the bill. In addition, the California State Association of Counties has concerns that the measure would interrupt the money counties receive as part of the state’s realignment process of shifting low-level offenders to county responsibility.

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