Orange County supervisors this week took a formal position to completely oppose an affordable housing bill introduced by state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, while the board’s chairman noted that Atkins is an important decision-maker in the county’s efforts to get a greater share of property tax revenue.

In adopting a strict “oppose” position to AB 1335, four out of the five supervisors rejected an effort by Supervisor Shawn Nelson to indicate that they’d support the bill if it’s changed.

Supervisors generally described the bill, which would sharply increase fees for filing property documents with counties to fund housing efforts, as a tax increase that they found difficult to support.

“It’s going to create new government,” said Supervisor Michelle Steel, who has frequently opposed fee increases since taking office in January.

The proposal would generate new funds to pay for affordable housing and home ownership programs, by increasing the recording fee for a real estate document in Orange County from $18 to $75.  That would boost the cost for a typical transaction from $54 to $229, according to county staff.

The bill has the support of the influential Orange County Business Council, Building Industry Association of Southern California and California Association of Realtors.

It’s also politically significant in that it’s proposed by the Assembly’s top legislator at a time when supervisors want Sacramento to boost Orange County’s share of property tax revenue.

That was highlighted by supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer, who noted that the county is trying to work with Atkins on the tax equity issue. He wondered whether the county should send Atkins a letter making clear what their concerns are with her bill.

In response, county staff noted that the supervisors could take an “oppose unless amended” position that would give a pathway for the county to support the legislation.

“There could be other ways for the speaker to look for revenue,” said Peter DeMarco, the county’s legislative affairs director.

That prompted Nelson to argue for taking a position of supporting the bill if revenues stay in the counties where they’re generated and all of the funds are used for affordable housing.

“100 percent of it should just be diverted entirely into Orange County’s housing fund,” Nelson said of the fees generated within the county.

“We don’t have an appetite to go fund everyone else’s low-income housing projects.  That doesn’t help the poor people here,” he added.

Nelson’s suspicion is that the speaker will probably get her bill passed, he added.

“Do we want to be productive and try and affect the outcome” or “let the outcome affect us?” Nelson asked.

His efforts failed to get any traction among his colleagues, none of whom seconded his motion to reconsider their oppose position in favor of “oppose unless amended.”

No members of the public addressed supervisors during Tuesday’s discussion.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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