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Democrats vs. The Inland Empire

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Democrats vs. The Inland Empire

Suzi Tompkins

I took this photo at approx. 5:45 PM 11/15/08 of the fire coming across the ridge on the west side of the Inland Empire - taken from above Hwy. 18 in Twin Peaks, CA.

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Democrats may have created a lasting political problem for themselves with last week's budget: enemies in Southern California's Inland Empire.

The IE, which refers to the fast-growing counties of San Bernardino and Riverside (with populations of just over 2 million each, was hit especially hard by a pair of budget manuevers.

The first takes revenue from the vehicle license fee that normally would go to cities and repurposes it to pay for local law-enforcement grants.

The other was budget-related legislation that takes billions from redevelopment agencies and gives it to schools and local governments.

These changes affect cities all over the state. But the Inland Empire is hit hard because it has so many new cities.

Such cities get additional vehicle license fee money -- the funds that were taken away -- and have been aggressive about using redevelopment money for growth. (The Press Enterprise has more details in this story).

In addition to these changes, the budget debate saw leading Democrats in California openly musing about whether inland areas represented by Republicans should be punished -- through targeted cuts -- for the failure of their representatives to support the temporary tax extensions sought by Gov. Brown.

It's too soon to tell what the political damge will be from all this. But Democrats should be worried.

If Democrats are to gain the two-thirds supermajority in the legislature, they need to win more elections in the Inland Empire.

That was already a significant challenge, given Republicans' strength in the region. This budget, by making life tougher for Inland Empire cities, won't make the task any easier.

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