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County is a possible plaintiff


and the Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — City and county officials statewide — including those in the foothills — are threatening the California Legislature with collective legal action if efforts are not undertaken quickly to restore billions of dollars in local funding lost with reduction of the car tax.

At noon today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was scheduled to reveal his plans to restore revenue lost when he rolled back an unpopular tripling of vehicle license fees.

Tuolumne County on Tuesday became one of 19 counties and four cities to join the lawsuit, which is to be filed Jan. 12 in Sacramento County Superior Court.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in closed session to join the lawsuit.

"The general discussion was that there's a constitutional requirement that the state backfills (the car tax money) for the counties," said County Counsel Gregory Oliver.

To make the payments, aides said this morning, Schwarzenegger will use new authority allowing him to impose cuts of up to 5 percent on any line item in the budget in order to fund an ‘‘emergency deficiency.'' He does not need to go to the Legislature to make those cuts.

Money saved would go to local governments.

Oliver said the lawsuit could only be stopped by a promise from Schwarzenegger to backfill the car tax money "100 percent."

However, if the governor leaves it up to the state Legislature to come up with any of the money, Oliver said, legal action could continue.

"(His plan) may not change the fact that cities and counties will sue because, as you know from watching the news, the Legislature has not been very cooperative with the governor's office in backfilling the VLF," said Oliver.

Calaveras County Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Stein said his board might vote to join the lawsuit at its Jan. 6 meeting.

Stein, president of the California State Association of Counties, will represent his organization in Sacramento at today's press conference.

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