SLO County supervisors vote for sales tax initiative
July 13, 2016
Despite opposition from San Luis Obispo County supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton, a countywide transportation tax is heading full speed ahead toward the November ballot. The proposed ballot measure calls for a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects and reduce traffic congestion. [Tribune]
The proposed tax would last nine years and raise approximately $25 million annually. Of the funds raised, 55 percent 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 tax initiative in order for it to pass.
On Tuesday, the SLO County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve the text of the ballot measure. Supervisors Bruce Gibson, Adam Hill and Frank Mecham voted in favor of putting the tax measure on the ballot, while Arnold and Compton cast the dissenting votes.
Arnold and Compton said they do not want to burden county residents with any more taxes. Compton said the transportation tax would be regressive and hurt poor people more than the rich because everyone pays sales tax. Compton also said the tax would create a transportation slush fund.
Mecham said he would not deny anyone the vote on the initiative and that county voters are being given the opportunity to make a choice.
More than a dozen people spoke about the tax initiative during public comment, mostly in opposition to the ballot measure. Opponents said Sacramento has mismanaged transportation funding. Some speakers called the tax a scam, a ponzi scheme and blackmail by Sacramento.
Supporters of the tax who spoke during public comment included a representative of a county bicycling group, who said she appreciates tax money would go toward bike and pedestrian trails.
Proponents of the tax have said state and federal transportation funding has decreased significantly in recent years. San Luis Obispo Council of Governments officials say the agency is at a fiscal cliff because of low gas prices and the increasing popularity of fuel-efficient cars.
All seven city councils in the county have already approved the tax initiative. The proposed ballot measure will appear before SLOCOG on Wednesday and return to the board of supervisors for final approval next week.
If voters approve the ballot measure, the sales tax rate would increase to 8 percent in unincorporated areas of the county and 8.5 percent in the cities.