Sacramento Transportation Authority board splits on pursuit of sales tax hike, Supervisor Frost calls ballot Measure A 'heartless' to low-income families



In what could be a negative omen for sales tax increase proponents, the Sacramento Transportation Authority Board of Directors yesterday failed to receive unanimous support to send Measure A to the Sacramento Board of Supervisors for their approval. Measure A, which is being proposed by the multi-jurisdictional STA seeks a countywide one-half cent sales tax increase to fund a variety of transportation projects in Sacramento County.

Even though the proposed expenditure plan for the $8 billion sales tax increase was approved by 11 of the directors at their monthly meeting held via teleconference, it proceeds to the Sacramento Board of Supervisor without unanimous support. The five members voting against the included Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost, Elk Grove City Councilmember Pat Hume, Citrus Heights City Councilmember Steve Miller, Rancho Cordova City Councilmember Garrett Gatewood, and Galt Mayor Paul Sandhu.

Although the Board of Supervisors is expected to adopt the expenditure plan and formally place the item on the November ballot, the defection of five members could be a warning the measure, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage is facing headwinds. The STA members voting against the measure are unlikely to advocate for its adoption, which is considered crucial with constituents, and the five could even actively offer opposition.

In many of the STA meetings before the COVID19 shelter-in-place orders, much of the discord among the STA directors centered on the expenditure plans funding allocation. Suburban stakeholders like Frost and Gatewood argued funds should be spent on road repairs and expansion. In contrast, urban interests represented by Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna and Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen argued for more mass transit, and any plan should take climate change and air quality into consideration.

Even though it was apparent the expenditure plan would be adopted, Frost, who is generally viewed as one of two conservative voices on the Board of Supervisors, upped the ante saying asking voters to pay more taxes during the COVID19 recession was not wise. She added by their nature sales taxes are regressive and punitive to low wage-earners who are the most affected by the economic downturn. 

"If we as a board are going to put this on the ballot, it really makes us look heartless," Frost said. "It's heartless during this time when people are going through so much."

Additionally, Frost noted that of the over 750 comments submitted for this STA meeting, comments opposing the measure outpaced supporters by a 10 to one margin.  

Frost also noted the Sacramento chapter of Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, widely considered a liberal advocacy group, has come out in opposition to the measure. Interestingly, the NAN Sacramento chapter has joined Sacramento County Residents Against Measure A, which by postings on their Facebook page, appears to be more a more conservative anti-tax group with ties to the Republican party.

(Frost's entire comments and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg's response can be heard in the audio posted below).  

Given all five Sacramento County Supervisors also serve on the STA board, and four of them voted for the expenditure plan to advance to their jurisdiction where approval is expected. For Measure A to be approved, a two-thirds super-majority is required.

In 2016 the STA proposed a one half-cent countywide sales tax increase. That measure, which did not have as well-coordinated opposition as this year's Measure A and had significant campaign financial support from home builders and real estate interests, failed by a slim margin in an expanding economy. 



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