1/26/17 – Here’s what Riverside County wants from Washington and Sacramento

PE, 1-26-17

Saving the Salton Sea and getting more funding for Inland public services are among the goals outlined in a wide-ranging wish list from Riverside County officials.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 17, approved the 2017 legislative platform, which outlines what county leaders would like to see from Sacramento and Washington, D.C. The platform is updated annually.Several items in this year’s platform concern the Salton Sea, a lake spanning Riverside and Imperial counties that’s been in long-term decline.

As the water dries up, lake-bed sediment blows through the Coachella and Imperial valleys and becomes a public health threat. Dead and decaying fish take away a food source for migratory birds, and the rotten-egg odors sometimes spread throughout Southern California.

Last fiscal year’s state budget included $80 million for sea restoration, and the platform seeks more state and federal funding and efforts to promote geothermal energy production from the sea.

The platform also focuses on efforts to boost funding for Inland services. The board signed off on a proposal to have the independent, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office study state funding formulas that county officials contend give too little money for a growing Inland Empire.

Supervisors also added their voices to the oft-frustrated push to restore vehicle license fee or VLF revenue to Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Wildomar and Menifee. Those four relatively new cities lost VLF money in 2011, and while the state Legislature has repeatedly approved legislation to re-start the funding stream, the bills died with Gov. Jerry Brown’s vetoes.

The platform supports bringing more judges to an Inland region that suffers from a chronic shortage of justices. As with VLF dollars, the quest for more judges has been repeatedly stymied in Sacramento.

Other platform elements include:

• Changing the California Environmental Quality Act to expedite legal challenges to development projects.

• Installing electric vehicle charging stations at Caltrans-owned rest stops.

• Cutting the federal corporate tax rate to lure trillions of dollars of money stashed overseas.

• Expanding the secured area for military installations inside March Air Reserve Base to add missions and bolster the base’s stature.

Also Tuesday, the board replaced the lobbying firm it uses in Sacramento. Hurst Brooks Espinosa stands to earn as much as $661,500 – $132,300 a year – over five years to advocate for the county’s interests in state government.

The county’s previous contract with Nielson, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross & Leoni cost $144,000 annually.