Sacramento Transportation Authority agrees on 60-40 split on possible sales tax increase revenues, but criticism persists

Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna expressing concern that stakeholders felt alienated by the transportation expenditure plan for t...

Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna expressing concern that
stakeholders felt alienated by the transportation expenditure plan for
the proposed Measure A sales tax hike. |  

At a special meeting of the Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA) meeting on Thursday, February 13, directors agreed to a draft expenditure plan for new revenues should they seek a sales tax increase with their proposed Measure A.

The multi-jurisdictional STA is responsible for sales tax revenue disbursement to various agencies in Sacramento County from a countywide sales tax designated for transportation funding. The STA is in the process of placing Measure A on the Sacramento countywide ballot in November for a 40 year one half-cent sales tax increase to fund a variety of transportation repairs, enhancements, and expansions.

In a report to the directors, executive director Will Kempton said after negotiations with the STA's ad hoc committee, the possible revenues would be a 60 - 40 split. The larger share would go to road improvements, repairs, and new projects, including the much-sought Southeast Connector, and the remaining 40-percent directed toward mass transit and other non-single vehicle transportation projects.

The current proposal would spend $4.1 billion on streets, road, and highways improvements and expansion and $3.1 for public transit needs over the 40 life of the tax. 

The STA ad-hoc committee members include Elk Grove City Councilmember and STA chair Darren Suen, Rancho Cordova City Councilmember Garrett Gatewood, Sacramento City Councilmember Jeff Harris, Folsom City Councilmember Kerri Howell, Citrus Heights City Councilmember Steve Miller, Sacramento City Councilmember Jay Schenirer, and Sacramento County Supervisors Patrick Kennedy and Susan Peters.

During his presentation, Kempton said the powerful California Alliance For Jobs (CAFJ) offered its support of the ad hoc committee recommendations. The STA was unsuccessful in 2016 with their similar Measure B even though they had substantial financial support from a committee calling itself The Committee to Repair Our Roads & Relieve Traffic, which was funded by construction trade unions and road-building interests. 

During their questioning of Kempton, Sacramento County Supervisor Don Notolli noted the ad-hoc committee voted 6-1 with one STA member opposing. 

"If we are not on the same page, that doesn't reflect well," he said.

Although Sacramento Regional Transit general manager Henry Li spoke in favor of the expenditure plan, other speakers during public comment criticized the plan. Among them was Steve Cohn of the transportation advocacy group, Sacramento Metro Advocates for Rail and Transit, or SMART, who said funding for operations like Sacramento Regional Transit decreased compared to the measure passed 16 years ago.

"We are hearing for the first time about this compromise proposal," Cohen told the directors. "We'll have to think about that." 

More pointed criticism of the plan came from Glenda Marsh, also of SMART. Marsh suggested mass transit advocates were not given equal consideration as compared to groups like CAFB.

"Our collation and Sacramento Moves, are not part of this compromise, we were not invited to the room, we asked for meetings with the [California] Alliance for Jobs," Marsh said during her comments. "You know what that says to all of us is you think we don't have the money for your ballot measure, that we don't matter, and we do matter as stakeholders." 

Reached after the meeting, Marsh reiterated her criticism, saying that she and other advocates who spoke during public comment were stunned by the revenue split. Others speaking during public comment expressed concern the expenditure plan did not adequately address a variety of issues like student transportation needs, bike safety improvements, air quality, and climate change.

"Community, transit, and environmental leaders were stunned at today’s [Thursday, February 13] STA Board meeting to learn that in spite of all their efforts adequate funding for a robust county-wide transit system was again denied when the board caved to pressure, again, from the road-building lobby and hyper-local politicians who don’t believe their residents ever go anywhere outside city limits," Marsh said in a statement. "This is a severe blow to quality of life in Sacramento County."  

During board deliberations, Director and Sacramento County Supervisor Joe Serna said the plans need additional focus like air quality, climate change issues, and funding for the American River Parkway as a cog in the region's transit system. Serna also expressed concern that stakeholders were excluded from the expenditure negotiations.

"The fact that we had a few speakers mention that they were feeling alienated or left out of the process bothers me," Serna said. "I don't think we can move forward with that kind of relationship quite frankly with those that take time to advocate for a lot of thoughtfulness on this important subject." 

In 2016, Measure B, which required a two-thirds majority for approval narrowly lost after opposition by a confederation of anti-tax activist and environmentally-minded voters who opposed that expenditure plan for encouraging continued urban sprawl, especially as it relates to the Southeast Connector project while neglecting road repair and enhanced public transportation options. 

In an opinion piece by Cohn and Roger Dickinson, another co-founder of SMART, they advised the STA against following the same plan in 2016. They said "If the STA Board moves too quickly to adopt a business-as-usual expenditure plan, we risk another failure like Measure B in 2016, and worse yet, economic stagnation and environmental harm for future generations."

Kennedy reportedly pushed back on Marsh's assessment of the ad-hoc committee process, but the audio of his commentary during the live online broadcast and airing on Metro Cable broadcast on Sunday, February 16 at 2 p.m were not audible. Reached via email, Kennedy expressed displeasure with Marsh's characterization.  

The statement from Kennedy said "I respectfully and strenuously disagree. I, and several other members of the STA board, have met several times with representatives of SMART over the past year and a half of extensive and comprehensive public outreach. Additionally, they presented directly to the STA Measure A ad hoc committee to provide valuable input during the deliberative process of developing the proposed Measure A project list. Further, SMART presented me with proposed language for the ordinance on the day of our last STA hearing and I publically committed to incorporating that language where appropriate."

Suen, also reached via email, said, "The SMART spokesperson [Marsh] made a FALSE [Suen's emphasis] statement. Steve Cohn and Roger Dickson from SMART personally met with the Ad Hoc committee. I have also met with Glenda [Marsh] and many of the Board members have met with her."  

Toward the end of the deliberations, Suen added, "I want to highlight the compromise that was reached, at least from two of the organizations, the California Alliance For Jobs representing a lot of the people doing work on our road and railways as well as general manager Henry Li of RT [Sacraemento Regional Transit]." 

The next two meetings of the STA are on Wednesday, February 26 and on March 12. The board is expected to approve the expenditure plan and vote on the placement of the measure on the November 2020 ballot during the March 12 meeting. 

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.










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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Confucius say, "little people who pay for Connector practice alchemy-turn cow manure into gold for big people".

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