During 'virtual' meeting the Sacramento Transportation Authority approves proposed Measure A expenditure plan

In a virtual meeting without the public in attendance and most board directors participating via telephone, the Sacramento Transporation Authority approved a draft expenditure plan for a countywide sales tax increase they plan to pursue during the November general election.

The expenditure plan for the 40-year one-half percent sales tax hike dubbed Measure A was approved by a 13-3 vote by the STA, the multi-jurisdictional agency responsible for the disbursement of county transportation tax revenues. The virtual meeting, as allowed under state law, was held without spoken public comment because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

When discussing how submitted public comments should be handled, STA Chair and Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen said there were over 540 comments received as of the start of the meeting. As the session progressed through its 50 minutes, Suen said there were an additional 31 comments received.

Suen said 448 of the comments submitted on the proposed expenditure plan opposed it, 66 supported and 26 were neutral. Although the exact reasons for opposition were not cited, at previous STA meetings, most of the criticism of the expenditure plan argued not enough of the expected $8.3 billion was allocated to mass transit, alternative transportation services, and reduction of greenhouse gases while others opposed any tax increase.

Sacramento City Councilmember Steve Hansen said the STA directors had heard sufficient comments, and the public would have more opportunities as presentations are made to the various city councils in the county and the county board of supervisors.

"The plan is going to come before each council and the board of supervisors, so I think this only one piece of the overall puzzle," he said. "We have been receiving public comment as a board for two months now."

Echoing Hansen was Suen, who agreed the public has commented extensively and will have other opportunities. 

"We've had several public meetings on this topic; this is not new," Suen said. "There will be ample opportunity for each of our respective constituents to speak to us."

Although the measure had support from 13 of its directors, Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost questioned the timing of placing it on the November ballot given the impending economic downturn. Frost noted many of her constituents do not support tax increases under better economic conditions, and the Bay Area Transporation Authority recently decided against pursuing a sales tax increase this year because of the global pandemic and faltering economy.  

"It is completely tone-deaf to think people are even able to think about a tax increase under the extreme circumstance we're all under," she said. "All the past comments that I had made [in favor of the measure] fade away and pale in comparison to the situation we have before us right now." 

Joining Frost in opposition were Rancho Cordova City Councilmember Garrett Gatewood and Citrus Heights City Councilmember Steve Miller. To be placed on the ballot, the measure must be approved by a supermajority of the STA board of directors, and to win voter approval, it must receive a two-thirds majority of the popular vote countywide.   

One advocacy group that has been monitoring the expenditure plan process is the Sacramento Metro Advocates for Rail and Transit - SMART. Speaking on behalf of the group was co-founder Glenda Marsha who expressed support of the vote.

"Advocates for rail and transit funding accomplished what we organized to do: ensure local elected officials support sufficient public revenue so Sacramento County residents and businesses have the opportunity to use the best public mass transit and regional rail service in the region," Marsh said in an email. "Today, a supermajority of the STA Board voted to now send the adopted Transportation Expenditure Plan to the County’s six city councils during March and April. We will keep monitoring and advocating in support of these goals."

With the approval of the plan, presentations will now be made to the city councils in Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Galt, Isleton, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Sacramento and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. The STA hopes have all the necessary approval by July for placement on the November ballot.  

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


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