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September 13, 2013

Campaign to pass Modesto tax increase kicks off

Supporters of the Yes on X campaign on Friday kicked off their effort to convince Modesto voters to pass a sales tax increase this November.

Supporters of the Yes on X campaign on Friday kicked off their effort to convince Modesto voters to pass a sales tax increase this November.

Measure X would impose a 1 percent sales tax, bringing the city’s total sales tax to 8.625 percent. A general tax, it would require only a simple majority of voters to approve it. But backers pledge that half the estimated $26 million raised annually will go toward public safety, with an 11-member citizens oversight committee approving all expenditures.

Passing a public-safety-specific tax would require two-thirds’ voter approval.

Retired Modesto police Chief Mike Harden, who has been the public face of the campaign in its early stages, and the voice of robo-calls that have gone out for “X,” called the measure “a vital step for our community.”

Harden emphasized his 43-year history in Modesto – 30 of them spent at MPD – and said he is “deeply troubled by the rise of crime in the community.” He spoke of cuts he had to make during his tenure as chief and promised that if passed, the tax would deliver 33 percent more officers to his successor, Galen Carroll. It also would pay for an increase in firefighters.

Half of the proceeds would go toward improving streets and expanding job-attraction programs, supporters say.

Stanislaus County also is considering asking voters for a half-cent sales tax increase for roads. If passed, that tax would open up opportunities for the county to access state money available to so-called “self-help” cities.

Should that tax pass, Measure X would drop to only a half-cent, Harden said. “There would be no new tax for Modesto voters.”

In that case, all the money brought in by Measure X would go toward public safety. Though there is nothing in the law to prevent the City Council from spending the money how it wants, Harden said the oversight committee and regular independent audits would ensure it goes where intended.

“It’s about as ironclad as you can get,” he said.

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