Jay Allen Sanford 6:52 a.m., Dec. 5
An Early Holiday Season Arrives With Unlimited CCDC Bailout
Senate Bill 863 removes the tax increment cap on what the Centre City Development Corporation can take away from the City of San Diego's general fund tax revenues in the CCDC redevelopment project area. SB 863 was part of a number of legislative maneuvers required before there could be a state budget agreement in a process that was already over three months late in sending an adopted budget to the Governor for his signature and seal of the Secretary of State.
Previously, local agency representatives were discussing a raise in the cap from $2.9 billion to $9 billion, but the text of SB 863's Section 7 amends California's Health and Safety Code by adding the following section in two parts (a) and (b):
"33333.14. (a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego's Redevelopment Plan for the Centre City Redevelopment Project, as approved and adopted on May 11, 1992, by the City Council of the City of San Diego by Ordinance No. 0-17767, as amended, contains an unrealistically low dollar limit on the receipt of tax increment. The Legislature further finds and declares that this limit severely restricts the ability of the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego to address conditions of blight which remain within its Centre City Redevelopment Project."
"(b) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary or any redevelopment plan previously adopted by the City of San Diego, commencing on the effective date of this section and in each fiscal year thereafter until the expiration of the time limit on the receipt of taxes and repayment of indebtedness set forth in the redevelopment plan adopted by the City of San Diego for its Centre City Redevelopment Project pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 33333.6 and other applicable statutes, the dollar limit on the receipt of tax increment for the Centre City Redevelopment Project is eliminated, and the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego may receive tax increment revenue from the Centre City Redevelopment Project without a dollar limit" (emphasis added).
Current law in Section 33333.6 sets time limits on the number of years that the tax increment may be diverted to CCDC, but SB 863's legislative amendment by inserting Section 33333.14 into the Health and Safety Code sets a precedent. The people of California now know of the mayor's willingness and the legislature's ability to modify the controlling legislation over CCDC and the Redevelopment Agency as they choose, in the manner they choose, with or without consulting local agencies or the public.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher stated that the Section 7 provisions of SB 863 are subject to a number of restrictions and were made with specific intentions to create more jobs, but specific authorizing language for the claimed restrictions and specific intentions do not appear to have made it into law. According to Fletcher's prepared statement PUTTING JOBS FIRST: "Private investment will increase another $10 billion in the next 20 years, reducing the need for additional taxpayer-funded projects" but no legal consequences for private investment not to increase at least another $10 billion in the next 20 years or less actually made it into the Health and Safety Code.
On that basis, and with a continued soft economic outlook, only time will tell how many jobs are generated by the Fletcher bailout amendment. Funding from Fletcher's CCDC bailout may take time to filter down to currently idled workers in the construction trades, and additional time will be required for individual project vetting and approval by the Redevelopment Agency and then the City Council when it is not acting as the Redevelopment Agency.
The County of San Diego and other local agencies will find that Nathan Fletcher did not include provisions for a sharing of tax increment income with them in the amended SB 863. The "Notwhithstanding any other law to the contrary" clause appears to invalidate the legislative basis for any previous tax increment splitting agreement or on-going negotiations that did provide some funding for those agencies.
While Fletcher insists that the earmark-like amendment was fully debated in Sacramento, other sources have stated the secretive nature of SB 863's amendment and passage was in part to keep Los Angeles-area representatives from opposing it, possibly where SB 863 conflicts with plans in the City of Industry to build a stadium in a regional municipality without NFL franchises.
According to Fitch Ratings debt servicing training material made available to the San Diego City Council on October 11, a multi-billion-dollar diversion of future tax revenues to unspecified multiple construction projects, where each project is subject to review and potential community opposition, may be a system of potentially negative factors in a ratings agency analysis of San Diego's ability and willingness to repay general obligations. The failure of Proposition C and/or D would be additional negative GO rating factors, providing a price signal to investors as to the residential willingness to raise taxes or make other policy decisions for paying off debt. Current real estate doldrums leading to lower tax revenues is another analyzable factor. A sufficient number of negative rating factors could increase the annual debt servicing load, further contributing to the City's current total deficit from mandatory pension contributions, unfunded health care liabilities, contingent lawsuit liabilities in the Kessler v. City of San Diego whistle-blower matter, and other causes.
Without Fletcher having a thorough analysis of the economic factor impact on San Diego GO ratings, it is possible that a modest increase in interest and principal payments on lower-rated City debt would negate at least some of the sales tax income generated by the passage of Proposition D, especially given the short length of the temporary half-cent sales tax hike compared to the much longer period over which redevelopment will be be financed with tax-supported debt.