February 27, 2008

Stanislaus supervisors OK road tax for fall ballot

The proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation got a unanimous endorsement from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, the last of the government agencies needed to put a measure on the November ballot.

The proposal now has the endorsement of the county, its nine cities and the Stanislaus Council of Governments. The measure, if approved by two-thirds of the voters, would add a half-cent sales tax in the county for 20 years, raising $700 million for local and regional road projects.

A previous proposal, Measure K, failed to get the approval of two-thirds of voters in November 2006. Supervisors said Tuesday that officials and transportation planners have listened to criticism and changed the proposal to address concerns.

Among the changes: The duration of the tax is reduced from 30 years to 20 years, and the division of the revenue puts more money toward cities and local streets and roads at the expense of the county and regional highways and roads. The new measure will be more specific about what money will be spent on what roads, and when, Supervisor Dick Monteith said.

"We are asking that there be a schedule, so people know when things will happen," Monteith said. "Everyone is trying to regain the trust of the people in Stanislaus County."

The additional revenue is sorely needed and will help the county win additional state and federal money for roads, the supervisors said.

"We are in destitute and desperate straits when it comes to transportation dollars," Supervisor Jeff Grover said. He lauded the effort to get all the cities and the county together on the measure.

"There are a lot of questions to answer, and a difficult campaign ahead," but it can be done, Grover said.

The board will vote on putting the measure on the ballot this summer, members said.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.

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