Voters living with higher sales taxes throughout California seem to have few problems with buyer's remorse.
When asked to renew sales tax increases dedicated to transportation projects a few years after initial approval, most people say yes. In almost every case, a sizable number of former opponents converted after seeing the benefits.
A Bee review of voting patterns in the 14 California counties that have tried renewing transportation taxes shows that all but one succeeded. Yes-votes skyrocketed an average of nearly 20 percent the second time around.
Most of the 19 counties with transportation taxes initially approved them with a simple majority. The 13 that renewed did so after a change in the law that boosted the threshold to more than two-thirds, a much tougher challenge.
Santa Barbara is the only county whose renewal tanked, in 2006 -- the same day that Stanislaus and Merced counties failed to persuade two-thirds of the voters to adopt a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation.
The impressive renewal rate "is very significant," said Bill Hamm, former California legislative analyst and co-author of the recently released "The Self-Help Program: A Better Way to Deliver Local Transportation Projects."
He noted that most self-help taxes are designed to expire someday. For example, Stanislaus County's Measure S, if approved in November, would sunset in 20 years after raising about $700 million.
"When you think about it, it's not terribly surprising" Hamm continued. "(Transportation leaders) know they're going to have to go back to voters and give accountability. There is a strong economic incentive to listen to the residents and put a priority on projects most important to those residents."