In Climate of Split on Support For Repealing Gas Taxes, Will Elk Grove Roll The Dice on Local Sales Tax Increase?

By Dan Gougherty | February 11, 2018 |

This week we received our annual California Department of Motor Vehicle registration renewal for our three-model-year-old vehicle. At first glance, it appeared the fee from last year had increased, which was expected with the passage of Senate Bill 1 that raised gasoline sales taxes and vehicle registration fees. 

Compared to last year's fee, the new cost showed that our increase for registering a car that is one model year older and less valuable had increased 22-percent - not an insignificant increase. We will be curious to see how much the registration fee is jacked up on our second vehicle when that renewal arrives in our mail this summer.

The registration fee hike and gas tax increase has spurred efforts to qualify a repeal of Senate Bill 1 on the November ballot. Gov. Jerry Brown, who is entering the final months in office, has vowed to fight the repeal attempt. 

Recent polls from the Public Policy Institute show support for the repeal statistically tied. Not surprisingly, 61-percent of voters who identified themselves as Republican supported repeal; 39-percent of Democratic voter supported; and most importantly, a slight majority of  52-percent of independent voters favor repeal.

While there are certain partisan overtones to repealing the tax hike, to say repealing will fail because California is a blue state is missing the point. In my conversations, not only is the rollback of the gas sales tax popular among more conservative voters, a more significant than expected number of liberal and middle of the road type voters are unhappy about the gas tax and registration fee hikes.

To be sure, opponents justify their position on any number of reason, some of it depends on their place along the political spectrum. Some conservative voters point to the amount of money directed toward transit needs unrelated to cars and highways, or put another way, mass transit.

Some liberal voters have expressed displeasure with the hike based on the regressive nature of sales taxes. By some estimates, the cost to the average California family is pegged at $700, which for lower-income families, particularly in high-cost areas, is not an insignificant amount.  

If these repeal efforts make it to the November 2018 ballot, it is in this environment that the Elk Grove City Council may be asking local voters to increase sales taxes by one half of a cent.

By all accounts, the City Council is working toward this effort given last autumn's ambassador outreach interviews and the recent quality of life survey, where they have cleverly name the sales tax increase proposal as City of Elk Grove Quality of Life and Essential Services Measure  (see below). The survey, which could be argued verged on being a push poll, you know, asking someone would you be willing to 50¢ a month if we can promise you world peace, seemed to associate paying more sales taxes to provide any number of essential services that should have already been paid for and a few goodies.

Undoubtedly the City Council will take those survey results, which may or may not be immediately released, and base their decision on that information. While there may be support to place the tax hike on the ballot, to say that it is a slam dunk would be a mistake.

First, there is the matter of Elk Grove City Council Member Steve Detrick. If Detrick, who has in the past repeatedly said he would not favor increasing sales taxes and does not go along with placement on the ballot, will this lack of consensus send voters a message? 

Beyond Detrick, there are other hurdles for the City Council to overcome not the least of which is the logistics of the ballot.

While 2018 is not a Presidential election, if we are to believe pollsters and pundits, the turnout for this midterm could be historic. While a high turnout might favor more liberal candidates and causes, it is not a guarantee.

This year there will be the Governor's race, one of California's Senate seats, all of the statewide constitutional offices. Along with these statewide races, voters in Elk Grove will also be voting on our state senator, assembly member, possibly county supervisor, two city council seats, the mayor, Elk Grove Unified School district trustees, Cosumnes Community Services District directors, and let's not forget the Elk Grove Water Board.

On top of that, there are the statewide initiatives, which could include the gas tax repeal. Should that make it to the ballot and win, will this affect how people will vote for a local sales tax increase?

The point is, this midterm ballot will be larger than 2016's. Even if there is a big turnout for the upper ballot candidates, traditionally down ballots races are often victims of under voting with those going through the entire ballot more motivated. 

Will these voters who make it to the bottom of the ballot be supportive of the tax increase? Short of some campaign blitz financed by benefactors of the City Council, intuitively we would guess those who hope to defeat the measure will be more motivated than supporters who may not even make it to the bottom of the ballot.     

The good news for the Elk Grove City Council is that city manager Laura Gill, and city attorney Jonathan Hobbs will probably craft the initiative to a general sales tax and thus require a simple majority for passage. 

In the coming months, this topic will come before Mayor Steve Ly, Vice Mayor Darren Suen, and council members Detrick, Pat Hume, and Stephanie Nguyen. With the possible exception of Detrick, there has been support from members to pursue this revenue stream in our view, so the chances are good they will place it on the ballot. 

As the issue progresses in the coming months, we will monitor this and take a closer look at all aspects of the possible tax burden.  

If you did not receive this survey and want your opinion heard, you can print it out (click here for printable version), complete it and mail it to The Elk Grove City Council, Elk Grove City Hall, 8401 Laguna Palms Way, Elk Grove, CA 95758.

Post a Comment Default Comments


D.J. Blutarsky said...

I am in favor of a city sales tax hike because I want our potholes filled and other "essential services" provided. I also think we need more revenue so the city can offer bigger financial incentives to bring high-end retail to our city. But most of all, I support a sales tax increase because each City Council member deserves a full-time salary with benefits, because their counterparts in the private sector such as Jamie Dimon, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, and Mark Zuckerberg all earn high salaries. Why not our Council?

Connie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Connie said...

Oh, D.J. I am going to have to break ranks and disagree with you on this one.

As a Democrat, I tend to vote for tax increases if they provide more, and in some cases, continued services to those less fortunate than me. A sales tax increase, in this case, should provide additional city services. However, given the history of wasteful and careless spending by the Elk Grove City Council, past and present, I doubt the money would go to what is needed the most.

When it comes to the Elk Grove City Council, and how this city squandered taxpayer money, until they prove to the voters that they can manage “our” money in a responsible manner, the answer isn’t just “No” to a sales tax increase, it is a “HELL NO!”

As someone who has paid attention since shortly after incorporation back in 2000, I am appalled on how historically members of the Elk Grove City Council wasted our money. And no, it isn’t just the original council members. Change the seats, the irresponsible behavior remains the same.

Shame on the Elk Grove City Council for wasting over 52 million dollars citizens of our new city worked to get within a two-week mandatory deadline with a voter registration drive, wanting our city to have a nest egg to give us a fighting chance at being a financially and fiscally sound entity.

Here are just a few reasons why we can’t trust the Elk Grove City Council with more money they can squander:

• Wasted 10 million dollars on busses that never saw the light of day
• Wasted over a million dollars on plans for a civic center.
• Wasted over a million dollars on a lawsuit against the Cosumnes CSD.
• Wasted over three quarters of a million dollars on plans for parks that were thrown away, along with a staff position with a hefty salary, that ended in the middle of the night.
• Wasted three quarters of a million dollars on the defunct Elk Grove Economic Development Corporation. The city’s current answer to that now, hire Economic Development Director Darren Doan a highly paid assistant who is going to monitor the Internet, i.e. troll, for businesses.
• Wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on feasibility studies that are collecting dust somewhere in storage. Feasibility study consultants who usually give 10-minute PowerPoint presentations as the Council’s eyes gloss over, ending with “Thank you for your excellent presentation,” never to be seen or heard of again.
• Wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants such as P3 International who conned the Elk Grove City Council on being able to raise money for aquatics center which is now tied up in litigation, costing the taxpayers even more money.
• Wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawsuits, usually settled out of Court, and legal fees that are generally contracted out to Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard, City Attorney Jon Hobbs former law firm.
• Wasted 4.6 million dollars on land outside the city limits, which was really a SOI ploy; land the Council now has currently up for sale.
• Wasted $50K for a retail study and a report that has never materialized to a company that boasts bringing Applebee’s, Dollar Tree or a Red Robin to cities. Gee, doesn’t Elk Grove already have all three?
• Wasted $39K for The CNTR and The Pendulum as proposed names for the aquatics center, both of which turned out to be pits and rejected because the Council “just isn’t feeling it.”

If the Council acted wisely on just one or two of the big-ticket items mentioned above, we would have more than enough money to fix our deteriorating roads.

And what is sad, the list above is just tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on, but this comment is already too long as is the list of wasted spending.

Has the Elk Grove City Council proven they are worthy of managing increase revenues that would brought in by a sales tax increase? Again, “HELL NO!”

Connie said...

Oh, and I did forget one important item for the list because of the news of last week, the Council wasted over a million dollars on the initial SOI application which was rejected by LAFCo – Pat Hume wasn’t on LAFCo at the time to drive his agenda – and that didn’t include the fees paid to PMC.

And then there was the skating rink that was fast tracked because the Council needed a reason for the purchase of the land in Old Town. I forgot how much that was, but I think it was about a $100K. At least some of our residents did get to enjoy that financial boondoggle.

And I will stop with this last one: The library building purchase. Council purchased that building in a rush rush because it was an election year. But never mind having it appraised beforehand to see if it could handle the weight of all those books. The entire building had to be retrofitted for some outrageous cost to the taxpayers. At least we have a library; but good luck finding a place to park.

So, thank you Dan for getting me going on this Sunday. I have a headache thinking of all the wasted money.

And please read over the typos in the above post.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Well I forgot one thing too. All the issues you discussed Voter, were in the past. We have the nation's first Hmong mayor and I put him up there in the same league as Elon Musk-a true visionary who will steer us into prosperity. Mr. Ly may not be building a rocket ship to Mars, but he is putting The Grove on the map and if there is intelligent life on other planets observing us, The Grove will be that shining star of the Northern Hemisphere!

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