Enjoy seeing your gas-tax money spent in Alameda or Los Angeles? Like it when prospective businesses look at our roads, then quickly look elsewhere? How about that road in front of your house? Is it crumbling?
If these problems concern you, vote to tax yourself a half-cent per dollar spent to fix our roads.
That’s what Measure L promises to do by increasing the county’s sales tax by a nickel for every $10 you spend. It will raise $1 billion over 25 years – money we sorely need to fix streets in Ceres, Newman, Waterford and every other city. Money to patch those thousands of potholes across the county. Money to add lanes, reduce congestion, rebuild aging bridges. Your aunt will be able to take a bus to her medical appointment without hassle.
And it will likely mean greater economic opportunity.
No, we’re not talking about new home developments. Those against Measure L are once again arguing that passing a sales-tax measure is nothing more than a sweetheart deal for developers. They’ve got nothing else.
When stratospheric Bay Area housing prices finally drive another wave of building into our Valley, developers will be required by law to contribute to the roads. But their contributions to improving Highway 132, or building a new interchange at Mitchell, or another lane for Taylor, will be negligible. Measure L will enable those projects to take flight – even if developers never build another house in Stanislaus County.
Need proof? Check out San Joaquin County, where a major remodel on Highway 99 is nearly done. Soon, the county will build a new bridge across the Stanislaus River. Self-help money enabled San Joaquin to widen Interstate 205 all the way through Tracy. Drive into Manteca or Stockton or Ripon, and notice how few potholes you must dodge.
We know this is preaching to the choir. A dedicated transportation tax has been before Stanislaus voters twice before. Each time, it has “won” – but not by enough votes to cross the two-thirds threshold. In 2006, some 57 percent of voters said yes. In 2008, a much improved plan lost by only 389 votes out of 155,535 cast.
Unfortunately, 7,390 voters didn’t cast a yes or no vote in 2008, perhaps overlooking the measure buried at the bottom of a presidential ballot.
Eight years later, the number of people supporting this measure has grown and there is no organized opposition. Yet, proponents worry it will be overlooked again. They’re urging voters to go to the bottom of the ballot first, then work their way up to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
“This is the one vote that will demonstrably improve the quality of life for people in Stanislaus County,” said Measure L committee chair Paul Van Konynenberg. “It’s about safe roads to school, no more weeds growing up through the pavement.”
This is the one vote that will demonstrably improve the quality of life for people in Stanislaus County. It’s about safe roads to school, no more weeds growing up through the pavement.
Paul Van Konynenberg, chairman, Measure L committee
Support is deep. Of the 52 elected city and county officials in Stanislaus, 51 have endorsed it. Even the one who didn’t, Turlock’s Amy Bublak, has softened recently. The Stanislaus Taxpayers Association – a group deeply skeptical of taxes, including this measure’s forerunners – endorsed it. Denny Jackman, the region’s most recognizable smart-growth proponent, is on board.
County Supervisor Vito Chiesa (like most farmers, skeptical of any tax), is one of the measure’s leading proponents. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, who will join the Board of Supervisors in January, is campaigning for it.
This isn’t just good policy, it’s necessary policy.
The state helps those who help themselves with matching funds. That’s why there are 20 counties are already self-helpers.
“We’re losing out to other communities in the state because we don’t have this funding,” Olsen said. “Let’s stop helping L.A. and help ourselves.”
Some worry an extra half-cent in sales taxes will be a heavier burden on the poor. And it will be. But bad roads are a burden, too.
In the past two tries, people in poorer neighborhoods voted overwhelmingly for the tax. Perhaps more than anyone else, they could see the benefits of better streets, patched potholes and more money for public transportation. And our sales tax isn’t that high.
Stanislaus’ rate is 7.625 percent (higher in Oakdale and Ceres), tied with many others for second-lowest in the state. With the half-percent increase, it will be 8.125 percent. In Los Angeles it’s 9 percent, 9.5 in Alameda and 9 percent in Contra Costa.
What do residents of those counties do when given a chance to get rid of this tax? Overwhelmingly, they extend it! San Joaquin County voters added 30 years in 2006; Fresno put on 20 years in 2007, while Sacramento, Santa Clara and Los Angeles have all added years.
“This is really, really important to us,” Chiesa said. “And by us I mean 540,000 people living in Stanislaus County. The people want their roads fixed.”
This isn’t a land-use issue. It’s a safety issue. A crowding issue. A pothole issue. A mass-transportation issue. And a safety issue. That’s why it should pass.