- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday that he had signed a bill allowing local governments a partial replacement tool for financing infrastructure projects such as water systems, transit facilities and affordable housing.

The Democratic governor signed SB628 by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, along with several other economic-development bills.

Brown previously led the charge to eliminate about 400 community-redevelopment agencies that he criticized as being little more than slush funds for private developers. Those agencies were dissolved in February 2012, leaving local governments without a way to fight blight and provide affordable housing.

Since then, lawmakers have been trying to revive local development financing tools. Brown signaled his willingness to work on the issue when he introduced a similar proposal in his budget in January.

SB628 allows a little-used tax increment financing law known as Infrastructure Financing Districts to be expanded and rebranded as Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts. Supporters said the bill has more safeguards because it requires 55 percent voter approval for issuing bonds and performance audits.

“The bill establishes (infrastructure districts) to provide a flexible tool for local governments to address needed economic development, affordable housing, sustainable development, environmental mitigation, and other needs in a fiscally responsible manner,” Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said in a statement Monday. His legislation, AB243, was the basis for Beall’s bill.

When the bill was passed by the Legislature last month, it was supported by cities and counties while opposed by real estate agents, anti-tax groups and community housing organizations.

Several other bills aimed at helping local communities with development projects that were signed by Brown include:

- AB229 by Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, would authorize a city or county to form an infrastructure financing district to pay for projects on a former military base and dedicate any portion of its redevelopment funds to the district.

-AB2022 by Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, would redefine economically distressed areas under the Target Area Contract Preference Act to encourage business in areas with the highest unemployment and poverty.

-AB2292 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, would allow communities to use infrastructure financing districts, a funding mechanism that requires voter approval, to create communitywide broadband projects.

-SB614 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would allow a local agency to use tax-increment financing in a newly formed or reorganized district to pay for infrastructure improvements in disadvantaged unincorporated communities.

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