California's cities are making Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature an offer they desperately hope won't be refused: more local redevelopment money to help close the state's budget gap.
That, in return for allowing redevelopment to continue.
The governor wants $1.7 billion from California's local redevelopment agencies — about a third of what they annual generate in new taxes.
The cities are pledging another $200 million a year beyond their current contribution to secure bond proceeds that would meet the governor's demand.
But so far, Sacramento isn't negotiating.
"We're negotiating against ourselves right now," San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders told reporters at a City Hall news conference Wednesday. "I mean, we don't know how to negotiate when no one's coming back and saying, 'We'd like to submit this proposal.' And that's what I'm calling on the Governor to do. And the Senate. And the Assembly."
The mayors of California's 10 largest cities spearheaded the compromise, which calls for paying even more redevelopment money to the state starting in 2018.
And reforms that include ramping up affordable housing.
"I support the compromise," said City Councilman Kevin Faulconer, "for one important reason: It keeps one of San Diego's most powerful economic engines running."
The governor and leading lawmakers got the proposal on the Q-T last week.
No official response has been forthcoming.
But political observers warn there may be incentive to eliminate redevelopment, because last year's Proposition 22 outlaws state raids on local funds.
And if the agencies cease to exist, their tax proceeds would be split among counties, municipalities, schools and special districts.
"There's a great quote in this debate, that 'The state seems to think that murder is a substitute for larceny,'" said Liam Dillon, who covers City Hall for Voice of San Diego. "And if that's what it takes to get their extra money, that may be just what they do."
Dillon added: "The Governor wants to pass the budget in 10 days. He's not come to the table at this point. You have frustration which the Mayor showed, that they can't get any compromise if the Governor's not willing to do it. If he has the votes, then why compromise?"
In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Evan Westrup, chief spokesman for the Governor, said Proposition 22 has no bearing on the Governor's issues with redevelopment.
Which are, Westrup said, the fairness of the process and concerns about securing more money for education and other needs.
"The Governor continues to be open to alternatives," Westrup later wrote in an emailed response, "but he has made it clear that any plan involving smoke, mirrors or gimmicks will be dead on arrival ...
"It’s a shame that local elected officials are rushing to shift billions of local taxpayer dollars into redevelopment projects while simultaneously proposing major cuts to education, public safety and other core services."
Sanders insists it's all about a money grab, saying the state told the cities from the beginning, "'We want $1.7 billion; we don't care where it comes from.'"
Now, Sanders says, the rationale has morphed into "it's kids against developers -- when we all know that's a false premise. The first couple years, the (redevelopment) money does not go to schools ...
"And secondly, it's not about developers. It's about jobs, it's about affordable housing, it's about blighted areas."