Sacramento Transit Authority to Spend $600k For Study on Possible Ballot Measure

UPDATED 3:15 p.m. | August 28, 2015 | At their regular meeting yesterday afternoon, the Sacramento Transit Authority board of direc...

UPDATED 3:15 p.m. |
August 28, 2015 |

At their regular meeting yesterday afternoon, the Sacramento Transit Authority board of directors approved a $600,000 expenditure to study the feasibility of asking Sacramento County voters to increase sales taxes to fund various transportation and infrastructure needs. 

The expenditure will be used to conduct surveys and constituent outreach by the Sacramento-based political and campaign consulting firm of  Duffy and Capitolo. Those findings will help STA directors by July 2016 whether or not to place a county-wide sales tax increase proposal on the November 2016 general election ballot. 

Like many government entities through the country, Sacramento County and its six incorporated cities are facing challenges financing even the most basic transportation maintenance needs. Elk Grove alone is currently deferring about $8 million in annual road maintenance in hopes of capturing possible monies from STA.

During deliberations on the expenditure Sacramento County Supervisors Don Nottoli and Susan Peters told STA Executive Director Brian Williams that it would have been helpful if representatives of Duffy and Capitolo were at the meeting to answer directors' questions.

Nottoli also expressed concern about placing a county-wide sales tax, which requires a two-third majority to pass,  unless it offered voters specific targeted projects. He added Californians pay some of the highest sales and fuel taxes, yet he has some constituents who have not had their streets repaved in over 50 years. 

"We have a big challenge here," he said. 

Elk Grove Vice Mayor Pat Hume asked Williams should they decide to place a sales tax increase on the ballot, how much would the campaign cost. Williams said when Measure A was placed on the ballot in 2004, the campaign cost about $1 million and that it was privately funded by local chambers of commerce and building industry interests.

Hume also noted that the Elk Grove City Council has discussed developing an alternative ballot initiative plan should the STA decide against pursuing a county-wide measure.    

"In Elk Grove we recognize that if this does not go forward we have to have a plan-b with something because we have a gap in our needs versus our resources," Hume added. 

Peters also zeroed in on who might fund the political campaign should the proposed sales tax increase put up for a popular vote. William said the Building Industry Association and the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce fund a large portion of the last campaign. 

"I think you might get help from Region Builders," STA Vice Chair and Folsom City Council Member Kerri Howell interjected. "They love running campaigns like that."

Region Builders Executive Director Joshua Woods said his organization would consider helping and their own internal polling shows strong support for specific transit projects such as the proposed Southeast Connector and bringing Sacramento Regional Transit's Light Rail to Elk Grove.

"However, we need to see a detailed expenditure plan of what this proposed measure would include, evaluate the return on investment for the economy, and examine what protections for taxpayers are included in the proposed measure before we can make a determination on support or opposition," Woods said. 

Only two directors, Citrus Heights City Council Member Sue Frost and alternate member Teresa Stanley, voted against approval. 

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