Measure L proposes to raise sales taxes by one-half percent for 25 years to fund “transportation” projects. It taxes citizens within Stanislaus County an extra $1 billion. Once the tax is approved, voters are stuck. There are no offramps.
Campaign promises are meaningless; only the measure’s vague wording is binding. Voters may get what is promised. Or not.
A special committee will be appointed to oversee expenditures. The members of that committee will not be elected, so they won’t be accountable to voters. The committee could be packed with developers and associates. How will members be more trustworthy than the people we vote for directly?
Who will lose and who will win if voters approve Measure L?
Losers: Seniors and low-income citizens will suffer most when they lose that half-percent in purchasing power. This year, higher property taxes, water, sewer and garbage rates are hitting seniors hard. Every person will pay that half-percent more for goods.
Winners: Developers will have road improvements subsidized by taxpayers. Developers don’t pay high enough infrastructure fees to support their projects. Most current road capacity deficiencies are the result of excessive subsidies. Measure L will enable subsidies to continue. More money will go to local governments for “administrative costs.” If any money is left over, maybe you will benefit.
Why didn’t a quarter-percent sales tax proposal advance? Developers would not get a big enough subsidy; there wouldn’t be enough money available to build superhighways.
Stanislaus County’s transportation planning map shows numerous unfunded expressways. “Matching funds” are for superhighways, not for potholes or pavement overlays. Superhighways are required to facilitate more houses, service commuters and create air pollution. Employers don’t move here because our valley is so polluted and the costs to meet air-quality standards are prohibitive. Industrial parks in Stanislaus County take decades to fill. No jobs and more houses equals a worse quality of life.
The term “matching funds” is a gimmick created by California Legislature to make persuading the public to vote for higher taxes easier. Our representatives should repeal the law – make the tax system fair, not allow conservative communities to be cheated out of a fair share of statewide tax revenues. A yes vote will validate this ploy. The only way to get better government is to demand it.
Stanislaus County will continue to be eligible for matching funds from the federal government regardless of whether Measure L passes.
Measure L is not a safety measure. Roads are designed for optimal safety. Drunk drivers, those who text and use cellphones while driving, drivers who disobey traffic laws and those who are irresponsible will always pose safety hazards. Accidents and fatalities occur everywhere regardless of how well roads are built. Because of bad drivers, superhighways are as dangerous as city streets.
Not included in funding through Measure L is more law enforcement – which is the best way to improve safety; 911 does not make arrests, write tickets or confiscate licenses.
There are good sales taxes. Renewed every eight years, the Stanislaus County library tax is specific about how revenue is spent; taxpayers get what they want because administrators are accountable.
Why is Measure L a 25-year tax? As vague as it is, the lack of guarantees raises a red flag. Proponents know that when promises aren’t delivered, you won’t vote to renew. At the end of 25 years, most of us will not remember why we voted for it in the first place. The duration of the tax will enable spending without genuine accountability.
Synchronized traffic signals can facilitate traffic flow and reduce motorists’ gasoline costs and air pollution. Shame on any city that has not spent the small cost to synchronize its signals.
Measure L is not good government. Demand better.
Bruce Frohman is a former Modesto city councilman. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee. Additional reasons to reject Measure L can be found at thevalleycitizen.com