Community Columns

Second, shorter road tax plan focuses on local projects

In November 2006, almost 60 percent of Stanislaus County voters (58 percent) voted to enact a half-cent sales tax increase dedicated to building and maintaining our county's road system. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough.

Voters in 18 California counties had voted previously to become self-help counties when only 55 percent approval was required. But California's laws have changed, and now two-thirds (66.6 percent) voter approval is required to pass the transportation sales tax.

We have not received our fair share of infrastructure funds. In allocating billions of dollars in infrastructure bond distribution, the state has shown a definite preference for counties that are capable of providing matching dollars for projects. Since the state and federal governments get double impact for every dollar they spend on transportation when that dollar is matched by local government, these formulas are unlikely to change.

After analyzing the results of the 2006 campaign and spending time with its supporters and most vocal opposition, a new strategy is emerging.

First, every city council and the Board of Supervisors must be committed to keeping the promises made to voters during the campaign and providing leadership to pass the measure. This will be agreed to before we move forward.

An oversight committee of nonelected citizens, including skeptics of the measure, will ensure that the tax money raised by the initiative is spent on building and maintaining the roads that were identified during the campaign. If possible, this committee will be selected prior to the election.

Second, the measure will be for 20 years instead of the previously proposed 30. It is anticipated that a stronger sense of urgency and accountability will come with the shorter time period. Conservative estimates project at least $700 million of revenue to be raised through the half-cent sales tax in 20 years.

Third, the new plan would allocate a full 50 percent to city and rural roads (instead of only 35 percent as in the previous measure). Money that would have been spent on Highway 99 and Interstate 5 interchanges in the earlier plan now will be used only to create high capacity east-west corridors in the north, central and south regions of our county.

Campaign consultants, graphic designers, printers, mail houses and various other vendors used in the campaign will be from our own community -- not hired from outside the area.

It is anticipated the highly contested presidential general election in November will maximize voter participation in determining the fate of this measure. If our cities, communities and the county agree on the plan, there is every reason to move forward with this important measure without delay.

We think it's time to get to work on providing Stanislaus County with a 21st century road system.

Campo is the mayor of Patterson. Grover is a Stanislaus County supervisor.