City of Fresno Prepared to Sue State

June 18, 2009 9:58:00 AM PDT
Governor Schwarzenegger will get an earful during his planned visit to Fresno on Thursday. Because of on-going budget problems, the state is proposing to take money from the city's street maintenance fund. Fresno is already looking at slashing 27-million dollars to balance its budget. Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Tuesday went before the City Council to seek support for a lawsuit to block the state's plan.

Swearengin said, "It is nothing short of robbery. It is nothing short of breaking a contract between the people of California, when they said 'yes' to allowing these gas tax dollars to be used in a certain way."

The City Council unanimously voted to join the League of California Cities in a lawsuit against the state. The loss of street maintenance funds, worth between nine and 13 million dollars, could affect over 50 jobs. Money would be lost for paving streets, fixing potholes and to power and maintain some 38,000 street lights.

City Councilman Larry Westerlund said, "I've come to expect this from Sacramento that they have not only breached this contract that they had with the people of California but they don't care."

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin added, "We told Sacramento you can borrow but you can't take. You cannot violate the trust of the people who put the dollars on the table in the first place to ensure certain services were received."

City officials, who met last week with the head of the Budget Committee, said its clear which funds the state has targeted.

Government Affairs Director Georgeanne White said, "It was pretty much plainly stated they wanted they don't want Proposition 1a because they have to pay that money back. They want the gas tax because hey don't have to pay that money back."

Governor Schwarzenegger will be at Fresno's Tower Theater on Thursday. Council members will adjourn at 9:30 Thursday morning to help send a message to the governor.

Council President Cynthia Sterling said, "We will have the opportunity to show some type of verbal support of our mayor."

A lawsuit couldn't be filed until a state budget is finalized.

Mayor Swearengin's message for the governor on Thursday will be "Borrow but don't take." That way the city can arrange short-term financing to deliver services.

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