Sacramento County voters will decide next week whether to increase their sales tax for the next 30 years to pay for transportation projects.
The proposal, called Measure B, would increase the sales tax by a half cent. In the ballot language, about 90 specific projects in eight cities and unincorporated areas of the county. Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Antelope, Galt, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, the city of Sacramento and Isleton are listed along with their price tags.
Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg says there are short and long-term benefits.
"It's sort of the non-shiny object," says Steinberg. "You know, we all want the big project and great project. But, getting there depends upon investing in the basics and it starts with good roads and a good transit system."
Craig Powell of the group Eye on Sacramento opposes the measure.
"It doubles the burden of an existing one-half percent sales tax, that's a Measure A sales tax that already brings in a gusher of tax revenues for transit and transportation in Sacramento, it brings in $120 million a year," says Powell.
Measure B promises 75 percent of revenues in the first five years would go to "fix it" projects for roads, streets and bridges. But, the language also says a city council, board of supervisors, or "road manager" may transfer some "fix it" money to new projects if it can be shown road quality would not fall below a certain threshold.
Powell says the language falls short of a guarantee.
"The independent taxpayer oversight they supposedly promise in Measure B are identical to the supposed taxpayer provisions in Measure A including the creation of an 'independent taxpayer oversight committee,'" says Powell. "But, that committee is neither independent, it's not representative of taxpayers it and hasn't been performing any oversight."
Steinberg says he is confident the will of the voters will be carried out.
"The elected officials are going to be accountable to the voters and then we're going to be accountable to ensuring that we fulfill the requirements of the act and I am absolutely committed to ensuring the "fix-it" provisions are fully complied with because that's what people expect," he says.
In the first five years, 25 percent of the tax revenues would go to improvement projects. In the following two-and-a-half decades, all of the money would go to improvement projects.
Language in the measure specifies about 61 percent of that money would go to local roadway, transit, operations and maintenance. Twenty six percent would go to Sacramento Regional Transit. Nine percent would go to regional highway traffic relief projects and three-and-a-half percent would go to senior and disabled transportation services.
The measure identifies the percentages of those funds that would be spent on roads, highways, light rail and senior or disabled transportation services.
Cities and the County would receive shares of the tax revenue based on population and miles of paved roads.
Sacramento County currently has a sales tax of 8 percent. The cities of Galt, Isleton, Rancho Cordova and Sacramento have an 8.5 percent tax rate.
The measure would require a two-thirds vote to pass.