The Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA) board on July 15 unanimously voted to abandon their effort to have an additional half-cent transportation sales tax measure placed on this November’s ballot.
A Sacramento countywide, half-cent sales tax measure has already been in effect since 2009 and does not expire until 2039.
The new Measure A proposal, with its 40-year, $8.4-billion expenditure plan, was aimed at creating thousands of miles of new bicycle and pedestrian trails, fixing potholes, improving air quality, reducing greenhouse gases, and decreasing traffic congestion across Sacramento County, including Elk Grove.
But given a recent poll showing the measure was unlikely to pass, the STA board made their decision to no longer pursue having the measure placed on the upcoming ballot.
Last April, the Elk Grove City Council unanimously voted to support a resolution for this expenditure plan for this measure. All other county jurisdictions also approved similar resolutions.
To pass, the measure would have needed to receive a two-thirds majority vote.
Had the measure been approved by voters, the city of Elk Grove would have received $348 million for its local street and road repair, and transformative system improvements.
The local projects that were available for the proposed Measure A funding included the widening, rebuilding and extending of Kammerer Road, the construction of citywide complete street improvements, and the implementation of the Bicycle, Pedestrian, Trails and Americans with Disabilities Act Master Plan.
The expenditure plan also included $71.4 million in funding for the Whitelock Parkway/Highway 99 interchange, and congestion relief on Elk Grove Boulevard and Laguna Boulevard/Bond Road.
Additionally included in the proposal was $485 million for a variety of transit projects, including the light rail extensions in Elk Grove and Folsom.
STA Executive Director Will Kempton this week spoke about the lack of support for the new sales tax measure from those who participated in the public polling.
“You look back over the last four or five months, late February, along comes the coronavirus (COVID-19), you get the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions in place, the economy goes into the tank in the spring,” he said. “Then late May, we’re looking at a significant amount of political unrest, because of the George Floyd incident.
“All of that combined to create an atmosphere of uncertainty, people concerned about the future. I think that obviously had an impact on the poll results, as well, coupled with the fact that people think that it’s just maybe not the right time to be going out for an additional sales tax when people are struggling financially and we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”
Kempton added that the need for funding for transportation projects remains and that efforts will be made to find ways to address those needs in the future.
Elk Grove City Council Member Darren Suen, who also serves as chair of the STA board, said that he understands why people would be hesitant to add an additional tax at this time.
“It’s counterintuitive to spend more to get more maybe from a tax perspective,” he said. “I get that, especially during a pandemic and everything else going on. Even half a cent is probably too much for folks to consider at this time. So, it’s just unfortunate.
“But the work still needs to be done, conversations still need to occur. I think when a (COVID-19) vaccine does come and things begin to normalize, regardless of where we’re working, there will be other reasons to travel and the improvements to the infrastructure will still need to take place.
“Taking care of what we already have will still need to take place and addressing climate change will still need to take place. So, I think the needs are still there. And you really only have two choices: to borrow or to increase revenue for public sector projects.”
Bob Murdoch, the city’s public works director, told the Citizen that city transportation projects will continue without Measure A funding - although there will be challenges.
“The additional funding from the new ballot measure would have obviously helped,” he said. “It would have accelerated a number of those things.
“But postponing the measure won’t stop our efforts in working on those things. They’re high priorities for the city and we’ll continue to move forward. It will be more difficult without the new ballot measure.”
Murdoch added that there is an increasing need for road repair and reconstruction, which is primarily funded by gas taxes.
“Gas tax is just going down,” he said. “It’s going to continue to go down as people transition again to electric vehicles, which are a good thing – great for the environment, great for air quality. But electric vehicle goes by, they don’t pay any gas tax.
“So, it’s difficult to maintain vast infrastructure with the funding source that’s going to go down and continue to go down over the decades to come.”