Sacramento cultural groups have had a setback, for sure. Still, they made a wise decision to delay a proposed county sales tax increase to fund a range of civic amenities.
Supporters have one shot at this. While they might have been able to persuade the county Board of Supervisors to put the plan on the November ballot, they faced a tough slog to get two-thirds of voters to approve the one-eighth of a cent hike, raising the countywide rate to 8.125 percent.
The groups – including the Sacramento Zoo, American River Parkway and Sacramento’s new pro soccer team – announced Friday that they had concluded there wasn’t enough time to build the necessary political support. If the measure went down to defeat, it most likely would be years before they could try again.
For years, these nonprofit groups have been seeking permanent funding for cultural amenities that Sacramento needs to remain vibrant. The Powerhouse Science Center, B Street Theatre and other nonprofits also would share in the sales tax proceeds, estimated at $25 million in the first year.
The plan’s most controversial wrinkle was that part of the proceeds – $3 million – would go to help build a $125 million stadium for Sacramento Republic FC. The team is very popular; Saturday night, it had yet another sellout of more than 20,000 at Hughes Stadium.
Yet even with the proposed soccer-specific, 20,000-seat stadium, there’s no guarantee that Sacramento would beat out other cities seeking a Major League Soccer franchise.
The other groups ought to think long and hard about whether they want to marry their efforts to a soccer stadium, which could very well be a lightning rod for opposition.
The window to come up with a final plan and to galvanize support is closing fast if the groups want to avoid competing with other local tax measures. There could be a vote in 2016 on a countywide transportation tax and another vote in 2018 to extend Measure U, the city’s half-cent local sales tax increase to help restore police, fire and parks services.
Backers of this “leisure tax” should not give up. They need to keep working on the right mix of beneficiaries and the right message. The right time just isn’t this year.