Measure G is not an extension of Measure Y
August 8, 2014
OPINION By SLO COUNCILMAN DAN CARPENTER
On July 15, my colleagues on the San Luis Obispo City Council voted without my support to put Measure G – the half cent additional sales tax – on the November ballot.
During the entire time leading up to the final vote, it was presented by staff and supported by the majority of council that this is an extension of the current Measure Y sales tax and was not a “new” tax. This is deceptive in an attempt to convince the public that this is not a new tax in hope that message will encourage an affirmative vote.
I will be honest with you, this is a new tax.
Several people including my fellow council members have been outspoken that they have a “right” to vote on the extension of this tax. This is a complete misrepresentation of the truth and needs to be clarified. Nothing in the original ballot language says or implies that at the end of the eight year sunset, the public can or should have the option to extend the tax.
In fact, it says the opposite. The exact ballot language says “eight years only.” Those who voted for this sales tax have the “right” to have this tax expire on March 31, 2015. So my colleagues and staff should stop with the mistruths. You’re insulting the integrity of the informed voter. If you want to ask the voters to approve a new tax then be honest.
Many prominent members of the community are “cheerleading” the passage of this new tax. Look at what organizations they represent, SLO Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association, etc., and who on the list are city of SLO retirees. The former depend on revenue from the city to operate, and the latter depend on the revenue from this tax to fund their lifetime PERS pensions. It should not surprise anyone if our union represented employees support it also. The nexus with all these groups is obvious.
What you’re not hearing from my colleagues, staff, or any of the proponents is how neglectful the city has been at addressing our pension unfunded liability. When our current unfunded obligation is released by PERS later this summer it’s quite possible that number will exceed $150 million for public safety and general employees, up from $90 million just three years ago.
So why aren’t the proponents talking about this enormous liability looming over the city budget? You’ll need to ask them.
The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) which governs accounting practices for state and local governments will require a higher level of transparency that illuminates our unfunded pension obligations as a balance sheet liability beginning fiscal year 2015. Will this colossal liability exceed our assets? Will the city be on the verge of technical insolvency? These are all questions my colleagues should be asking and demanding our senior staff answer honestly.
Our primary responsibility as council members is fiduciary oversight and yet all my colleagues have taken their eye off the ball. Their ineptness in this area of responsibility forces them to depend solely on staff’s recommendations, shame on them. If this is the type of council members you want to represent you, then keep electing the same ones. Otherwise, you have an opportunity on Nov. 4 to elect three new members who will serve this community in the fiscally responsible way it should be.