County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said that when he and Supervisors' Chairman Shawn Nelson joined state Sen. Lou Correa for a meeting on Thursday with Gov. Jerry Brown's staff to discuss a dispute involving $73 million in property taxes, they were confronted over their straw votes this week to exempt themselves from budget cuts imposed on other departments.
Spitzer voted along with Supervisors Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates earlier this week on a straw vote for the annual Orange County budget to not make a 5-percent cut for all departments mandatory for supervisors’ offices. Nelson and John Moorlach voted for the cut.
Spitzer said members of Brown's staff, who had been alerted to the vote by an article in Voice of OC, were none too pleased.
“They [the governor’s staff] brought up your article,” Spitzer said, adding that he understood the concerns. He also said he will be switching his vote when the final budget comes up for consideration during a special meeting on June 24.
“Given the fact that it is important to the governor’s office that the board offices not just cut voluntarily but affirm it as a part of the formal budget adoption, I agreed,” Spitzer said.
“It’s the principle,” Spitzer said. “The governor’s office wants to see it mandated. And I understand the governor’s argument, and I’m happy to oblige.”
“There will now be 5 percent cut across the board from supervisors’ budgets,” Spitzer said. “I’ll be voting for that.”
Spitzer was in Sacramento as supervisors and Orange County labor officials mounted a lobbying full-court press to try to avoid having state officials take back more than $140 million in property taxes after the county lost its challenge in court.
It hasn’t been easy for one of America’s most Republican counties to ask a Democrat-dominated Sacramento for a break on an issue that was fought bitterly in court, especially after an election cycle when Orange County politicians fought Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative (Proposition 30) and also provided much of the financing behind an aggressive, anti-labor ballot initiative (Proposition 32).
Spitzer said that given the recent court loss, supervisors have joined with Correa, who cast a pivotal budget vote in 2009 that gained Orange County more than $50 million in additional property taxes and now leads the effort to renegotiate that allocation.
“They were very receptive and understanding of our plight,” Spitzer said of the governor’s office.
While legislators took up consideration of a state budget Friday that includes no relief for Orange County included in it, Spitzer said, “We’ve got some good signals” that Sacramento may help the county.
Neither Correa nor Nelson could be reached for comment. Brown’s staff did not respond to inquiries by deadline.
“It’s not just about money but fairness,” Spitzer said.
Regarding exempting supervisors from across-the-board cuts, Spitzer said he always planned to institute cuts in his own office staff but wanted to allow other supervisors more flexibility.