Our View: Modesto police union backs sales tax measure

September 9, 2013 

— The Modesto Police Officers Association, the union representing patrol officers in the Modesto Police Department, has emerged as the first major donor to support the campaign for Measure X, the sales-tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot. The City Council is asking voters to raise the sales tax by 1 percentage point – or one cent – for the next six years.

The union donated $40,000 to the Safer Stronger Modesto committee, which is using an Oakland CPA firm as its treasurer. Former Police Chief Mike Harden, who retired from the city last summer, told The Bee last week that he is heading the committee. Harden also signed the ballot argument in favor of the tax increase and is featured on the supporters’ website, www.saferstrongermodesto.com.

While Measure X is proposed as a general tax increase – because a general tax hike requires only majority approval rather than the two-thirds required for a tax increase for a specific purpose – the council has stated that it intends to spend half the revenue on public safety.

The police union support is no surprise, given that the mayor, the city manager, police chief and others have argued that much of the revenue would go to hire more officers. Furthermore, the city’s budget troubles include pension obligations for police and fire. We fully expect other police bargaining units and the firefighters’ union to contribute.

A committee has formed to oppose the tax increase, under the name No on Measure X – Tough Love for Modesto. Former Mayor Carmen Sabatino is listed as the principal officer; former Councilman Bill Conrad is listed as assistant treasurer and Kurt Abell is listed as treasurer. Its statement of organization, filed July 31, did not include any donors.

Sept. 21 is the deadline for both recipient committees to file a report on contributions received and bills paid.

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