Costa Mesa firm in fight for RDA funds

A Costa Mesa-based law firm on Feb. 1 is representing a coalition of cities hoping to block the December decision to dissolve the state's redevelopment agencies.

Attorneys for Rutan & Tucker argued before a Sacramento County Superior Court judge, asking that he block the plan that has local implications for cities statewide that rely on the RDAs' tax revenue to improve distressed areas.

"We're seeking a stay order that would preserve the status quo and primarily not dissolve redevelopment agencies," said lawyer Bill Ihrke.

The firm is representing 10 Southern California cities challenging the constitutionality of a law upheld by the state Supreme Court on Dec. 29 that kills RDAs and funnels much of the RDAs' tax revenue back to the state.

Costa Mesa is not among the plaintiffs, but would benefit if the agencies are saved.

Attorneys supported their written motions with oral arguments Friday. The judge would have to issue a tentative, or temporary, order on the motion by Tuesday to have any effect on what has already been put in motion by the December ruling.

Ihrke said his case stands on firmer ground than what the court relied on back in December, when the court noted in its decision that it was not considering the same arguments Rutan & Tucker is making now.

In this case, attorneys are arguing that the state overstepped its authority in redistributing taxes back up to Sacramento when it approved the RDA-killing law with a simple majority.

The state Constitution mandates that certain types of tax revenue can only be reallocated after a two-thirds approval vote from the California Legislature, Ihrke said.

Furthermore, the law was passed after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a fiscal emergency. But, the lawsuit argues, dissolving RDAs has a long-term effect that exceeds the governor's authority during any such emergency.

Several Costa Mesa projects rely on RDA money. Projects that did not have contracts signed and money allocated to them before the RDA disbandment law was enacted could lose their funding, thus forcing them to compete with other local projects for the city's general fund dollars.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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