The first obligation of any taxpayer association is to ensure a community’s taxes are necessary and are spent wisely. The Stanislaus Taxpayers Association has spent countless hours studying Measure L. We concluded that it is necessary, but the measure also contains guarantees that the funds will be spent properly.
Our local streets and roads are in desperate shape, primarily because local communities have limited resources to fix them. Our state government has failed to adequately address our crumbling roads. But local cities have also chosen to limit spending on street maintenance, and instead have increased spending on employee salaries and benefits.
Moreover, a recently published report shows Modesto’s general fund is in deficit from this year through the foreseeable future. Basically, Modesto is broke and services will continue to be reduced.
These facts leave taxpayers with two choices: endure wretched streets or pony up new funding to fix them.
As the Taxpayer Association advocates, we decided to propose a Watchdog Commission to Mayor Ted Brandvold. If Measure L passes, this commission would audit and report on new and existing revenues, expenditures, projects already planned as well as new project planning. Our mayor and City Manager Jim Holgersson agreed to the watchdog commission, presented it to the council, and the City Council unanimously voted to create it.
Other factors helped us toward our decision. First, Measure L is a special tax, creating a discrete enterprise transportation fund. Second, the distribution formula requires 73 percent of all revenues be spent on local city streets. Third, administrative costs are capped at 1 percent of Measure L’s new revenues. Fourth, the cities and county could qualify for matching funds and grants from the state and federal governments.
Fifth, StanCOG would appoint an oversight commission for all funding and Modesto would have an additional oversight commission.
In the movie “No Country for Old Men,” one man asked, “If you followed your principles, and your principles brought you to this, what good are your principles?”
The STA has said “No” to every recent proposed tax increase. Three weeks ago, we voted to say “Yes” on Measure L.
Let me be clear, this is not because we want higher taxes; it is because we want our streets to get fixed.
I felt it necessary to explain why we made this decision. It is, after all, somewhat unexpected and novel coming from the STA. Our hope is that after reading our rationale, it will be easier for you to make a decision on Measure L.
Dave Thomas is the president of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association; he wrote this for The Modesto Bee.