SAN DIEGO (CN) – California is not required to immediately reimburse San Diego and Orange counties $113 million for their funding of state-mandated programs, a California appeals court ruled.
The return of $41 million to San Diego County and $72 million to Orange County for providing 10 years of 50 services can only be sought through government code, the appeals court ruled, making a writ of mandate inappropriate.
The counties said the state had a contractual, constitutional and statutory obligation to reimburse them for the required programs. But statutes for reimbursing state-mandated costs do not create an implied contract between state and local agencies, Justice Bloom ruled.
The court said California is aware of its obligation, and has 15 years to reimburse the counties. The appeals court rejected the counties’ fear that the section might be amended or repealed to increase reimbursement time, saying it refused to second-guess the motives of a legislative body.
The appellate court said the separation of powers doctrine prevented it from compelling the Legislature to pay a judgment from future appropriations in the state.
“We are sympathetic to the financial burden placed on the Counties by the State’s failure to meet its reimbursement requirements,” Bloom wrote, but “when the Legislature fails to make an appropriation, we cannot remedy that evil.”
The appeals court reversed judgment and instructed the trial court to vacate the writ of mandate.