Three city councils this week voted in support of a sales tax increase for roads, setting up a likely November ballot measure that would go before all voters in Stanislaus County.
With Turlock, Newman and Riverbank councils on board, leaders of all nine of the county's cities are lined up behind the proposal heading into tonight's Stanislaus Council of Governments policy board meeting.
Supporters breathed a sigh of relief when the independent-minded Turlock council gave a unanimous but lukewarm nod late Tuesday. Just one city opting out would have killed the effort, officials throughout the county have said, and Turlock leaders have openly discussed going it alone with an individual road tax.
"This isn't an oligarchy, it's a democracy, and the public has a right to weigh in on this," said Turlock Councilwoman Beverly Hatcher. Echoing that council's majority, she added, "Personally, I don't think I'll support it."
Newman's council approved the half-cent sales tax increase late Tuesday, following Riverbank's show of support Monday.
"We decided we would fully support the effort to go forward," Mayor Chris Crifasi said of Riverbank's 3-0 vote Monday, with one member absent and one vacancy. "We all realize how important our local roads are."
The tax increase would provide $700 million over 20 years. Half would be used to repair and improve neighborhood roads. The other half would help establish three east-west corridors.
StanCOG policy board members are expected tonight to order $400,000 worth of documents, including an environmental study, in anticipation that county supervisors in August would formally place a measure on the November ballot.