Judge denies challenge to Modesto sales tax measure

A judge has denied the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association’s legal challenge of Measure G, Modesto’s one-half percent sales tax increase that will appear on the November ballot.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Timothy W. Salter issued his final ruling Friday after lawyers for the association, the city and Stanislaus County appeared before him in court to make their arguments. Salter had issued a tentative ruling Thursday denying the association’s challenge.

Because Measure G is a general sales tax, it can be used for any general government purpose, but city officials say they intend to use the tax primarily on Modesto’s Safer Neighborhoods Initiative, as well as other purposes. The initiative calls for increased spending on public safety, such as hiring more police officers, and other efforts, such as increased code enforcement.

The association claims the Measure G ballot language misleads voters into thinking they are voting on a special tax that must be spent on the Safer Neighborhoods Initiative. A general tax requires a simple majority to pass, while a special tax requires two-thirds voter approval.

Salter repeated in his final ruling the points he made in his tentative ruling: Granting the association’s request would substantially interfere with the county election office’s ability to conduct the countywide November election – which includes Modesto’s election – and the association had failed to provide clear and convincing proof that the ballot materials are false or misleading.