Members of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments plan to make a decision this week about whether to replace a proposal to renew Measure D on the November 2006 ballot.

The measure, a half-cent sales tax passed in 1989 to fund public transportation, does not expire until 2010. SBCAG will vote on Thursday about how to word a ballot measure to renew the tax for the upcoming election. The meeting is open to the public and begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room at 105 E. Anapamu St. in downtown Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the group could choose to put the existing Measure D up for renewal or to replace it with Measure A+B, which were initially proposed as two separate initiatives. Firestone said he thinks the SBCAG will most likely decide to combine A and B into one initiative for the upcoming ballot.

Measure A+B would use the existing half-cent sales tax to fund road maintenance and would create a new quarter-cent sales tax to fund public and alternative transportation. Firestone said he expects the combined measure to pass without heated debate, but said he does think there will be some opposition to A+B.

Kelly Burns, Associated Students external vice president of local affairs, said a number of proponents for Measure A+B are hoping the vote will be unanimous because SBCAG’s united support for the combined measure could help convince voters to support it as well.

“We really tried to encourage a unanimous vote. That would say a lot to the voters,” Burns said.

Burns, also a member of Isla Vista Transportation Alternative for Livable Communities, said the student group opposes the separation of Measures A and B. She said the group is campaigning along with other local organizations to support a joint measure, which would ensure that people who vote for road maintenance would also have to approve alternative and public transportation.

Measure A+B would help build sidewalks in I.V. and would alleviate traffic and bicycle congestion by building new bike paths in the area, Burn said.

Firestone said a combined measure would increase the sales tax and would, as a result, require two-thirds voter approval to pass. He said he thinks it will be difficult to convince that many local voters to support the measure because of, in part, voter ignorance about Measure D. He said recent polls show that only about 15 percent of voters say they understand Measure D.

Burns said she thinks it is vital that the combined measure passes in November, even if it is difficult to obtain a sufficient number of votes. If not, Burns said, the costs of creating another proposal, campaigning and placing it on the ballot would be very high.

“It’s always hard to pass anything by two-thirds, look at A.S. elections,” Burns said. “But this has to pass.”

Burns said she thinks local activists and officials need to educate voters about the combined measure, and its potential impact on local transportation.

“We really want to be united with Firestone and the other supervisors who voted for [the combined Measure A+B],” Burns said.