SLO County supervisors put sales tax on the ballot
July 20, 2016
UPDATE: Video of the confrontation between supervisors Adam Hill and Lynn Compton at the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisor meeting on July 19 at the bottom of the article.
ORIGINAL: Following a brief argument between supervisors Adam Hill and Lynn Compton, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted for a final time on a countywide transportation tax. The half-cent sales tax initiative will now appear on the November ballot.
As it did one week ago, the board voted 3-2 on Tuesday to place the tax measure on the ballot. Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Frank Mecham joined Hill in voting in favor of placing the initiative on the ballot. Compton and Supervisor Debbie Arnold cast the dissenting votes.
The proposed tax would last nine years and raise approximately $25 million annually for transportation projects and traffic reduction efforts. Fifty-five percent of the funds raised is supposed to go to local agencies for transportation projects; 25 percent is supposed to be used to reduce traffic on major roadways and highways; and 20 percent is supposed to be spent on countywide transportation projects, including improvements to bike and pedestrian paths.
Two thirds of county voters would have to support the initiative in order for it to pass.
Proponents of the tax argued that our infrastructure is failing and we cannot count on Sacramento.
Opponents of questioned the $400,000 to $600,000 cost of bringing the new sales tax measure to the voters, money they said could be spent on roads, and that Sacramento should be held accountable for managing transportation funding.
Before Tuesday’s votes, Hill attacked two critics of the tax measure: former Congresswoman Andrea Seastrand and Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) spokesman Mike Brown. Hill said it was ironic they were opposing the tax because Seastrand served as the head of the California Space Authority, which spent taxpayer money, and Brown headed the Santa Barbara County government, which had its own sales tax.
Compton responded by saying it is inappropriate for Hill to attack members of the audience who take time out of their day to speak before the board.
“I think it’s completely inappropriate, and I am going to call for you not to do that anymore,” Compton said.
Hill shot back at Compton, calling her a hypocrite while she was still speaking.
“You don’t ever say anything when people personally attack me or Supervisor Gibson,” Hill said.
Hill has argued repeatedly with Compton and Arnold over the tax measure. Hill has said voters should have a say on the matter, and the county needs the tax revenue because the state and federal governments have cut transportation funding.
Arnold and Compton have said they do not want to burden county residents with any more taxes. They have also said the state should not be rewarded for mismanaging transportation funding.
Mecham, who has at times been the swing vote on the board, took the position that the voters should decide on whether or not the county adopts a transportation tax. Critics have called Mecham’s position a cop-out.
“The very fundamental, basic thing for me is the democratic way of doing things where you let people make their choice,” Mecham said. “I don’t find that to be a cop-out. I find that to be democracy.”
All seven city councils in the county have already approved the tax initiative. The San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, the agency that initially called for the initiative, has also approved the tax measure.
If voters approve the measure, the sales tax rate would increase to 8 percent in unincorporated areas of the county and to 8.5 percent in the cities. Each of the cities already have their own half-cent sales taxes.