In an effort to slow police officer layoffs in the California Bay Area, State Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson has pledged to pass a bill increasing the fees Californians pay to license their vehicles.
Money from the vehicle license fee goes to cities and counties, which spend much of it on public safety. When the state cut the fee in 1998, it promised to offset the loss to local governments with a general fund subsidy. However, with a budget crisis, that subsidy is in danger of ending starting next month.
The city of Fremont laid off seven police officers last week because of anticipated budget problems, says Chief Craig Steckler. "We will need to lay off 26 more on June 30 if nothing is done, "he says. "That means we will be responding to emergencies only."
Without a bill, such as Wesson's, to help fund police departments, "people will die on the streets of California," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said.