After failing to garner the necessary votes to pass Measure D in November 2006, proponents of the road improvement tax are trying to get a similar proposition, Measure A, back on the ballot for the November 2008 elections.
According to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, Measure A seeks to renew the existing half-cent sales tax currently providing funding for numerous road improvement projects in the county. If passed, the tax will remain for an additional 30 years and will not only go toward maintaining current road condition, but will also help fund several major improvement projects.
The proposition is a revised version of Measure D, which proposed an additional quarter-cent tax on top of the half-cent tax already in effect. Despite receiving 54 percent of the vote in favor of the proposition, it did not receive the required two-thirds vote necessary to raise a sales tax.
Gregg Hart, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, said the proposition is necessary, lest the county lose essential funding.
“Right now, we’re just trying to give people all of the information and, most importantly, let them know what would happen if the measure didn’t pass,” Hart said. “All of the funding would be lost and we’d have trouble moving forward, let alone maintaining existing conditions.”
Hart also said that the new proposition is not asking the public to raise taxes but simply to renew an already established tax.
“This time around, we’re not asking people to raise taxes,” Hart said. “We’re just asking them to maintain the taxes that we already have.”
Hart said he partly attributes Measure D’s failure to his organization’s inability to provide voters with tangible evidence of the improvements that would be gained with the additional tax.
Hart, however, said he believes Measure A will garner public support when voters see their tax dollars hard at work this summer widening a stretch of U.S. Highway 101 south of Santa Barbara. The county has already allocated $140 million to the widening project.
After Measure D failed, SBCAG organized a 25 member advisory committee to develop Measure A. Hart said that many members of the committee were in opposition of Measure D, and that the decision to place them on the committee was to help ensure community interest groups had an influence on the process.
“It shows that we really listened to the criticisms, and have adjusted the plan to make it more acceptable to voters,” Hart said.
Before Measure A can officially make it onto the November 2008 ballot, a majority of the county’s city councils must approve the draft developed by the SBCAG. Assuming the proposition is sufficiently endorsed by the various city councils, the County Board of Supervisors would then cast their vote on whether or not to include it on the ballot.
Hart said he remains hopeful that Measure A will fair better than its predecessor, Measure D, this November.
A public opinion poll taken across the county in January indicated that 75 percent of voters approve of the measure.