Complexities, tensions of drafting sales tax measure on display at Sacramento Transportation Authority meeting

The Sacramento Transporation Authority seeks to avoid another embarrassing loss with
voters like happened in 2016 with its failed Measure B plan. | 

Hoping to avoid the narrow yet embarrassing loss of 2016's sales tax hike for countywide transportation needs, the Sacramento Transporation Authority (STA) hoped to pursue a more appealing measure to place on next year's ballot. Efforts to construct such a measure suffered a setback at yesterday's monthly STA meeting, 

During the abridged 90 minute meeting, fissures appeared between factions of the 16-member board. On one side were Sacramento City Council Members Jeff Harris and Steve Hanson, who said should the measure, should it be placed on the November 2020 ballot, address air quality issues.  

"If this plan makes air quality worse, sets us back on our climate goals," Hansen said. "I think we will have sabotaged our region for a generation, at least for 40 years which is a very long time."

On the opposite side was Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova city council members Pat Hume and Garrett Gatewood who respectively said the measure as written was flawed and would probably not pass. Gatewood said the measure was unfair to Rancho Cordova saying their residents would be paying more in taxes than they receive.

"I am very concerned that the JPA [Joint Powers Authority, Southeast Connector Road project] is not going to be properly allocated," Gatewood said.

The city council's of Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, and Folsom have been pushing for funding sources for the controversial road that will connect I-5 in south Elk Grove to U.S 50 in Folsom. Proponents including Gatewood and Hume argue the road is needed to relieve traffic congestion while skeptics argue it will encourage suburban sprawl and is a subsidy for housing developers who finance city council campaigns in Sacramento County suburbs.

Hume also weighed in agreeing with Gatewood saying he "was speaking some truth about what we are talking about here" regarding the proposed allocation of the $8 billion in revenues the measure could generate over its 40-year span. He also noted the allocation of funds to various transportation projects did not reflect popular items in a survey conducted for the STA.

"If you can't convince a third of the voters in the communities where you're going to be spending the money that it's a good idea, what hope do you have in the rest of the region," he asked. "It does not allocate money the way it ought to be."

While emphasizing he did not think the measure would pass with its current allocations, Hume said if the STA board does place a measure on the ballot, it should seek more money from taxpayers.

"I say quit playing small ball and go out for a full cent [one-percent]," Hume said. "Let's get more money to divvy up because right now, we are arguing over table scraps instead of putting steak in front of the voters."

When the STA sought their tax increase in 2016, that measure, called the "The Road Maintenance & Traffic Relief Act of 2016, was narrowly defeated with an unusual confederation of anti-tax activist, and anti-sprawl advocates. Much of the funding in 2016 came from real estate developers and building trade unions. 

Complicating Thursday's meeting was that STA's meeting only had 90 minutes to use the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors' chamber. As a result, there was no public comment included in the proceedings. STA chair Sacramento County Board of Supervisor Susan Peters apologized saying there was a scheduling conflict that required they vacate the chambers by 3 p.m. 

The meeting drew about 100 people, and there were over three dozen who requested public comments. One person in attendance said several of the speakers were from the SMART and SacMoves groups as advocates for transit, rail, bike, and pedestrian investments, all of whom were upset they were excluded from the proceedings, and that hurt the credibility of the STA.

The STA's next meeting will be on January 9, and at the direction of Peters, the session will be open-ended. The directors are expected to approve the expenditure plan by March for placement on the November 2020 ballot.

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.

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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Tell ya what Hume: Why don't you stick with the STA plan because it is not just about Elk Grove, but the entire region and the air we all breathe. You once said that dinosaurs don't drive. Well we do and the smog does not recognize city boundaries.

Then, go back to your city council and jack up those developer fees to help pay for the interchange and Connector, since it will help them sell their homes and shopping centers.

You want 1%? Take a half a percent and make the developers pony up the rest of the money. The old-time Elk Grovians will still make a tidy profit when they sell-off their land and skip town.

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