Assemblywoman Russell on Government Consolidation

June 1, 2009

“This legislation addresses the need to make the consolidation process uniform and useful, empowering residents to address their communities’ individual needs. However, it is still important to ensure there are checks and balances. The elements in this legislation provide those checks and balances through extensive input from the community. While this legislation in no way mandates consolidating local governments and special districts, it streamlines the process so the residents can initiate change for the benefit of their community.

“With any major change in policy there is trepidation. I share concerns of several people who have reached out to me about this legislation. I have confidence that our communities will make prudent decisions and not turn this legislation into an easy fix to local problems. This process is not an easy fix.

“Our local governments provide our most essential services. I envision that this process will be used sparingly and only where it makes the most sense. It is important to note that consolidation does not inherently reduce the cost of government and the charges for services.

“I was able to impact some provisions as it was being drafted. I was instrumental in raising the percentage of signatures needed to begin the process from 10 percent to 20 percent for governments with less than 500 voters. I also worked to include a 4-year moratorium on the process after a failed referendum.

“While we could have made some other changes to the process that I would have supported, I am satisfied with the steps this legislation takes to allow consolidation processes to be useful. Consolidation does not always save money and is not a silver bullet to solve all of our tax problems, but it is a step in the right direction.”