The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments approved a proposal Thursday to combine two new taxes designed to replace Measure D, which expires in 2010, into a single measure on the November 2006 ballot.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said almost everyone on SBCAG’s board voted to merge the Measure A and Measure B sales taxes into Measure A+B on the upcoming ballot, although the representative from Solvang abstained from the voting. Measure D is a half-cent sales tax that funds transportation projects in Santa Barbara. Measure A+B would implement a half-cent sales tax to fund road maintenance, as well as the addition of a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for alternative and public transportation projects, Firestone said.
The representative from Solvang abstained from the vote because the city council in Solvang wanted him to oppose the measure, Santa Barbara Mayor and SBCAG board member Marty Blum said. She said SBCAG changed a few details of the final measure before voting on it and the Solvang representative was not sure if he should vote against the altered measure.
Firestone, who is also an SBCAG board member, said approximately 30 members of the public attended the meeting to voice their opinions on the proposal. He said members of the student-run Isla Vista Transportation Alternatives for Livable Communities, who lobbied in favor of combining the measures, also attended the meeting.
“Everybody came through,” Firestone said. “There were about 30 speakers and there was opposition. I would say the majority [of the speakers] supported the combined measure.”
Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs Kelly Burns, a member of IVTALC, said IVTALC is pleased with SBCAG’s decision.
“I went today with two other students,” Burns said. “We’re extremely excited. This is a historic moment. … It’s increasing the amount spent on public transportation from eight percent to 40 percent, which is a huge increase, and we’re really excited about that.”
Firestone said he is glad Measure A+B will be on the ballot, but he said he is also worried that it might have trouble passing in November. Because the measure is a tax increase, it requires approval from two-thirds of voters to pass.
“It’s good [that the proposal was approved], but I am concerned about the ability to pass this by a two-thirds majority in the election,” Firestone said.
Blum said she thinks SBCAG made the right decision and now the association needs to decide how it will educate voters about the ballot measure. She said government officials can campaign independently for the measure, but they cannot do so as a group.
“The work is just starting on it, so we have to get out there and tell people about it so they understand it,” Blum said. “At the next SBCAG meeting, we’re going to come up with how much SBCAG can do for the upcoming election, like how much money we’re going to spend on brochures and stuff. We’ll also come up with what we can’t do, because SBCAG can educate people but it can’t tell them how to vote.”
Blum said she plans on campaigning in support of the measure.
“As independent [SBCAG] members, yes, we can get out there,” Blum said. “I hope every elected official in the county gets out there.”
IVTALC promised county officials that they would advocate in favor of the combined measure if it made it onto the ballot, Burns said. She said the group plans to keep their word.
“We’ll keep our part of the bargain, and we will organize people, and we will continue to educate people about the issues,” Burns said. “I know I am going to dedicate as much time as I need to, and I know other people will too, just to educate people about it and get them to vote for it. I encourage everyone to vote for it in November.”