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Five key issues facing Riverside County government in 2018

By in Press Enterprise on January 2, 2018

By Jeff Horseman

Questions of money, future leadership and marijuana commerce await Riverside County supervisors in 2018.

Here’s a look at five important issues facing the board in the new year.

THE BUDGET: Supervisors continue to grapple with how to put the county’s $5.5 billion budget on a sustainable path that doesn’t rely on savings to make ends meet.

For years, a series of new, ongoing and inflexible costs has outstripped projected growth in tax revenue. It complicates the board’s long-standing desire to achieve “structural balance,” in which ongoing expenses are paid fully by ongoing revenue.

So far, county government – the county’s largest employer – has avoided mass layoffs. But job cuts haven’t been ruled out, and in the past, non-essential offices were closed Fridays to save money.

SEIU Local 721 members on strike in September.

UNIONS: For more than a year, county negotiators have tried to broker new collective bargaining agreements with several unions representing thousands of employees.

In light of budget woes, the Board of Supervisors has sought strict limits on employee raises. Union leaders, meanwhile, accuse the county of trying to roll back the clock on employees’ quality-of-life gains.

The board imposed terms on the union representing sheriff’s deputies and declared impasses in talks with two other unions. Service Employees International Union Local 721 staged a two-day strike in September over worker safety conditions, and more labor actions could be on the horizon.

MARIJUANA: With a limited exemption for medical marijuana patients, pot cultivation and commerce in the county’s unincorporated areas is forbidden.

That would change under a series of rules being crafted by county officials. The rules, which would establish a legal framework for marijuana businesses to operate in unincorporated communities, are tied to a November 2018 ballot measure that would impose a local tax on pot transactions.

If voters reject the tax, the county would halt the rule-making […]    

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