EDITORIAL: Consistency is required

Gov. Brown should veto SB 7, which hurts charter cities.

The Fresno BeeOctober 11, 2013 

Jerry Brown

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Voters rightly should expect that Gov. Jerry Brown be reasonably consistent with his state bill signings and his dealings with the federal government. A big test of that consistency involves a lawsuit the governor filed last week and Senate Bill 7 that is on his desk.

With the lawsuit, the governor seeks to prevent the federal government from imposing costly, unreasonable and unconstitutional demands on the state. Senate Bill 7, should it become law, would permit the state to impose costly, unreasonable and unconstitutional demands on charter cities. The governor should vigorously pursue his lawsuit against the federal government, and he should veto SB 7.

With the lawsuit, Brown seeks to prevent the federal government from withholding transportation grants unless the state agrees to exempt transit workers from pension reforms enacted last year. The federal government claims that state pension law violates transit workers' collective bargaining rights. Gov. Brown denies that assertion and argues correctly that the federal government's actions are coercive and unconstitutional.

As the lawsuit states, by withholding the funds, the Labor Department undermines "the independent fiscal and legislative sovereignty of California."

For the same reason Brown is right to pursue his lawsuit against the U.S. Labor Department, he is obligated to veto SB 7 -- a bill that is opposed by Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and many other mayors.

Authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the bill seeks to withhold state funds from any charter city that fails to comply with the state's prevailing wage laws when using city funds alone to pay for public works projects.

The Steinberg measure would deny all state construction funding -- including state bond money, loans or grants -- to any city whose voters approved provisions that exempt contractors from paying prevailing wages for locally funded projects.

Of California's 120 charter cities, 51 have approved such provisions. The bill would punish those cities and their residents for exercising their constitutional rights to use city money in ways they choose.

In California, "prevailing wage" is nearly always the union wage. In the economically depressed Central Valley, this reality boosts the cost of public works by 15% to 20%.

To protect the sovereignty of the state and save money, Gov. Brown should pursue his lawsuit against the federal government. To protect the independence of charter cities and save money, the governor should veto SB 7.

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