Voters will have to deal with their commitment issues this November and decide whether or not they should continue to support the 17-year-old Measure D – along with its new baggage.
The proposal would raise the current sales tax for Measure D in Santa Barbara from one-half cent to three-quarters of a cent in order to provide over a billion dollars for road repair, alternative transportation and expanding U.S. Highway 101. The measure would have a lifespan of 30 years, and over that time would amass $1.575 billion for the county.
If it fails, and no other measures are proposed, the county will have no funding for transportation projects after 2009. The measure requires two-thirds of voters to approve it in order for it to pass.
Jim Kemp, the executive director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, said the organizers behind the proposal have tried to create a measure that appeals to many groups.
“This measure enjoys a pretty broad coalition of support,” Kemp said. “We’re required to take the expenditure plan [for the measure] to city councils and the board of supervisors, and every single city council and board member who voted on it voted yes, except one.”
Half of the taxes collected from the measure would be distributed to the county’s cities and rural areas based on population, and the other half would be used for special projects, including widening U.S. Highway 101. Of the money given directly to the cities, at least $179.6 million must be spent on alternative transportation, such as a proposed monorail between Goleta and Ventura, as well as additional bus services.
The Santa Barbara Republican Party is one of the few organizations in the county opposing Measure D. Monty Ward, the chairman of the Santa Barbara GOP, said that too many tax dollars would be spent on plans, studies and other intangible things if the measure were to pass.
“We should be spending our money on bricks and mortar, so to speak – that is, things that are actually going to benefit us,” Ward said.
Kemp and Cameron Benson, the Environmental Defense Center executive director, said environmental groups in the area are almost unanimously behind the project. They said the measure, which would promote bus and bicycle usage, would lead to fewer cars on the road and therefore better air quality.
Benson said expanding the freeway through the county might create more pollution. However, he said the five-fold increase in alternative transportation funding would counter this problem.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, whose constituency includes Isla Vista residents, supports the measure, along with the rest of the board of supervisors. If this version of Measure D does not pass, he said, SBCAG will have three years to create a new transportation measure before the original expires.
“It’s not a miracle, but it certainly is the best we have,” Firestone said.
Firestone said he applauds the measure’s efforts to protect the environment and fund alternative transportation. He said the measure would help expand the bus system upon which many I.V. residents have come to rely.