SAN BRUNO (BCN) – Financial relief for San Bruno fire victims has been a cause state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, has fought for in the state’s overdue budget since the gas pipeline rupture on Sept. 9.
The issue garnered state funding in the budget, which was passed by the Legislature a record 100 days late and sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Friday morning for signing, but the victory turned out to be bittersweet for Yee, according to a spokesman for the senator.
According to Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin, the senator’s name was stripped from the authorship of SBx6 21 – which would help prevent financial devastation to San Bruno fire victims through tax write-offs and state support – because Yee refused to approve of the overall budget.
“These last few budgets have not been true compromises,” Keigwin said. “They’ve been straight giveaways to Republicans.”
Keigwin said the alteration was made either Thursday night or early Friday morning, and that although Yee views the move as “petty Sacramento politics,” he encouraged his supporters to vote for the bill even without his name on it because “this issue is bigger” than Yee is.
Keigwin said Yee faced the same situation last year, when he authored an emergency funding bill for domestic violence shelters and found his name stripped from the bill the night before its passage because his opinions differed from some senators.
Again, he encouraged passage of that bill regardless of his authorship, and the legislation went through, garnering more than $16 million in funding for domestic violence shelters, Keigwin said.
“It’s unfortunate that some individuals want to play petty games…(but) we ended up getting two good pieces of legislation approved,” Keigwin said.
Representatives from Schwarzenegger’s office did not return calls for comment Friday regarding the alleged stripping of authorship.
The San Bruno assistance bill, which is similar to previously passed legislation that provided aid to cities devastated by southern California wildfires, would help survivors of the fire in three ways, Keigwin said.
First, it would ensure San Bruno homeowners who had qualified for a $7,000 state property tax exemption would still receive that write-off even if their homes were destroyed, Keigwin said. Taxpayers from San Bruno would also be able to deduct any personal or business income lost as a result of the fire under the new bill.
Finally, the bill would require the state to provide reimbursement for one year of any property revenue losses that result from the new, lower property assessments of damaged or destroyed homes, Keigwin said.
He said the allocation of the San Bruno aid money would not greatly impact the state’s budget because the spending plan had been created on the assumption that those homeowners would be receiving the tax write-offs the relief bill ensures them.
The only money that was not originally allotted for are the funds that would cover the loss of victims’ incomes, Keigwin said, but that amount is not expected to be exorbitant.
The money will make a bigger positive impact on the lives of San Bruno victims than it will a negative impact on the state, he said.
A final provision of the San Bruno relief bill states that if a responsible party is uncovered through the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, that entity would be responsible not only for rebuilding the damaged areas of San Bruno, but also reimbursing the state for the cost of the three relief measures in SBx6 21, Keigwin said.
The senator hopes San Bruno residents will be able to start rebuilding their city within a year, Keigwin said.
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