Signature gathering effort launched to place countywide 40-year, $8.5 billion transportation sales tax increase on ballot

 A diverse coalition led by the Sacramento Taxpayers Association led efforts against a similar
$8 billion sales tax proposal in 2020. |  

In a continuation of a multi-year effort to generate additional sales taxes for Sacramento County transportation projects, a coalition has announced yesterday that they will seek to place an initiative on the November general election ballot. 

The effort is led by the California Alliance for Jobs, the California State Council of Laborers, and Region Business. The group will start gathering signatures to place a proposal on the ballot that will increase sales taxes by one-half a percent and generate about $8.5 billion over the 40-year life of the tax. 

"It's time to reverse the trend of our decaying transportation infrastructure," Michael Quigley, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Jobs (CAJ), said in a press release announcing the effort. "For years Sacramento has been facing increasing commute times, worsening congestion, and declining air quality but this November voters will have an opportunity to support change."

Unlike efforts in 2016 and an aborted attempt in 2020 by the multi-jurisdictional Sacramento Transporation Authority, this effort seeks to place this proposal on the ballot by initiative. A measure placed on the 2016 ballot by the STA and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors failed to reach the required two-thirds majority. STA scuttled their similar effort in 2020 after it became apparent it would not get the two-thirds threshold. 

As a result of a California Appellate judicial rulings in 2020, because it would be on the ballot by the citizen-driven initiative process, only a majority is needed for approval. Proponents do not have an exact number of how many signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot. According to Ballotpedia, California's average cost per signature in 2020 was $7.22.    

Although signature-gathering just started, it will undoubtedly become a campaign issue in most municipal and Sacramento county elections, should it qualify for the ballot. Most notably, the measure has the potential to be one of the highlighted issues in the District 5 Sacramento County Board of Supervisors race.

There are five candidates seeking to replace Supervisor Don Nottoli, who will be leaving his seat in December after 28 years of service. Of the five candidates contacted via email seeking comment on the proposal, only Elk Grove City Councilmember Pat Hume responded.

Hume said that while he generally opposes tax increases, he recognizes the need for new road construction and improvements and said he would study the proposal before taking a position. Hume's complete response is below.

"Generally I oppose higher taxes, but I also recognize the need to fix our roads. It is frustrating that State and Federal level bureaucracies siphon off more and more of the money we send them for transportation issues rather than sending it back to us for projects and needs here at home.
It is impossible to say whether or not I support the hypothetical measure without knowing what is and isn't in the expenditure plan and whether it includes folly projects that do little to help people moving about the region. In the past I have been in favor of providing the electorate the opportunity to weigh in on matters concerning their wallets."
Since being elected in 2006, Hume has held numerous positions as Elk Grove's representative on an array of multi-jurisdictional transportation authorities including the STA. While Hume supported in principle the failed STA 2020 effort, he and four other directors voted against placing it on the ballot citing concerns there was inadequate funding dedicated for road construction and repair.

Among elected officials supporting the effort are Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen, Sacramento City Councilmember and California State Senate candidate Eric Guerra, Citrus Heights City Councilmember Steve Miller, and Rancho Cordova City Councilmember David Sanders. In her statement of support, Singh-Allen, who is the current chair of the STA said the tax hike "will provide a blueprint for transforming our transportation system in the decades ahead and enable us to leverage billions in state funding to help us achieve our aggressive goals.”  

With the CAJ's involvement, proponents have recruited Democratic heavyweights who were instrumental in lobbying for the approval of California's Senate Bill 1. The legislation, which increased gasoline sales taxes, was signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown. 

Along with their political influence, the CAJ brings considerable financial clout. According to financial disclosures filed with the California Secretary of State, CAJ has $4.4 million on hand as of this January, but it is unknown how much will be directed toward the Sacramento effort. 

Opposition to the 2020 STA sales tax measure, which sought $8.4 billion over 40 years, was led by the Sacramento Taxpayers Association, which assembled a diverse group of opponents including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation, NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network civil rights group. Responding on behalf of the group was its president Bruce Lee who noted the broad-based coalition and the need for more governmental responsibility.  

"First, it is still a bad time to propose a new tax. Although the pandemic appears to be subsiding, the county’s economy is still weak. One-third of SMUD customers are either behind or have stopped paying their bills altogether. And small family businesses are still closing their doors." Lee said. "Inflation is raging. This proposal has been kicking around for years, but county leaders seemingly can’t read the room that homeowners, renters, and businesses are struggling."

Lee added "this is a highly regressive tax falling disproportionately on the shoulders of the working poor and the middle class" and "while we likely need roadway improvements because of age and deterioration, local governments, and especially Sacramento, have a history of neglecting infrastructure and instead fund fancy new projects or programs until roads, sidewalks, and other infrastructure start to fall into disrepair. It is only then they run to taxpayers for more money. We believe that historic neglect and lack of prioritization shouldn’t be rewarded." 

He also noted the group is looking forward to formally reviewing the current proposal. 

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Yeah, let's reward all the local governments for not properly budgeting for long term maintenance of our infrastructure, and let's twist it around and make it a jobs/economic development issue now. Yep, sign me up!

Eye on Elk Grove said...

Mr. Hume, why no mention in your quote of your personal interest in a potential sales tax increase advantage to the Capital SouthEast Connector and/or your developer friends.

Is this just another example "lying by omission?"

After 16 years on the Elk Grove City Council, those who pay attention have come to know that Hume is famous for his continuing misrepresentations or quote mining thinking he is smarter than anyone else in council chambers. That is, until Hume is caught and called out, then becoming red-faced and combative.

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