Clarification: This article originally stated that Measure D did not receive a majority of “yes” votes in 2006. In actuality, the measure did receive a majority, however it did not garner the two thirds majority needed to pass.
The fate of road improvement projects across the county is in the hands of registered voters this November, when a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects will be up for renewal.
Measure A allocates a half-cent sales tax for transportation purposes and will generate approximately $1.05 billion over the next 30 years to improve and maintain transportation routes throughout Santa Barbara County, including the expansion of Highway 101. The measure is not an additional tax, but simply a renewal of a tax already in place. The future of the measure may be in jeopardy, however, as concern for the current fiscal crisis grows.
“We’re concerned about [how people will react],” Gregg Hart, spokesman for Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, said. “But voters are smart. They know measures like Measure A that are local can really be counted on, as opposed to relying [completely] on the state and federal governments for support.”
If approved, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments estimates that the $1 billion generated by Measure A will be matched by $522 million in state and federal gas taxes over the next 30 years.
If voters do not approve the measure, the expansion of Highway 101 could be delayed for at least ten years and Santa Barbara will lose $35 million in annual revenues necessary to maintain its current standards of roads and public transport. According to Hart, Measure A is an important investment for the county, despite the fiscal crisis.
“The fiscal crisis is a really obvious issue for people,” Hart said. “But if we’re going to solve these problems we need to do it ourselves.”
Measure A would raise $140 million of the $400 million necessary to widen Highway 101 while the remainder of the funding is provided by state and federal sources. The measure is predicted to cost the average Santa Barbara family $15 a month.
“Tourists and visitors pay about 20 percent of the money generated from Measure A,” Hart said. “When you look at the measure, which generates $1.5 billion from county, state, and federal funds over 30 years, the real money from SB residents comes to only about $800 million. That’s a pretty good deal.”
In addition to $140 million reserved for expanding Highway 101 to three lanes, approximately $455 million will be allocated to both North and South Counties to resolve their own transportation issues.
“South County’s plan is aimed much more at improving alternative forms of transportation — rail, regional bus systems, [and] bicycle and pedestrian improvements,” Hart said. “But North County has more rural roads, so they choose to spend more of their money on highway maintenance.”
Measure A is a follow-up on Measure D, which was passed 1989, and allocated the same half-cent sales tax to transportation issues in the region until 2010. In 2006, a proposal was created to renew Measure D with a tax increase to three-quarters of a cent, but it did not receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass. For this November’s ballot, Measure A adjusted the 2006 proposal in favor of the original half-cent over the next 30 years.