Local Elections

Sacramento County transportation sales tax shy of passing in late returns

Voters cast their ballots as a dog named "Mister Mocha" waits patiently for his owner to finish, Tuesday, November 8, 2016, at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Sacramento voting precinct in downtown Sacramento.
Voters cast their ballots as a dog named "Mister Mocha" waits patiently for his owner to finish, Tuesday, November 8, 2016, at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Sacramento voting precinct in downtown Sacramento. lsterling@sacbee.com

This story updates here.

Measure B, the proposed half-cent transportation sales tax in Sacramento County, remained just shy late Tuesday of the necessary two-thirds support it would need to pass.

As of midnight, the measure had 65.5 percent voter approval with a majority of precincts reporting. To pass, however, it would need to needs to top 66.7 percent.

A similar transportation tax measure in Placer County, Measure M, had won 63 percent of the vote with nearly 80 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday. It also needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

The Sacramento tax would raise an estimated $3.6 billion over 30 years to finance major fixes and upgrades throughout the county, starting with filling potholes and repaving rutted streets.

Sacramento leaders proposed Measure B as a way to take more local responsibility for improving and expanding the county’s transportation infrastructure, reducing reliance on state and federal governments where political gridlock has caused funding to stagnate.

Measure B was backed by all seven cities in the county as well as the county Board of Supervisors. Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg loaned the effort $200,000, saying he felt the measure was critical to the city and county’s economic growth.

Some taxpayer activists opposed the measure, saying the county already has a half-cent transportation sales tax in place, Measure A. The Measure B tax would overlap Measure A for two decades. Transportation planners said Measure A, approved in 2004, has helped move the county forward amid recession and state funding cuts, but doesn’t provide enough money to meet growing needs.

The plan called for 70 percent of the money to be spent on roads and 30 percent on transit. It requires jurisdictions to spend 75 percent of their Measure B money in the first five years on fixing streets that score below pavement-quality standards. Once each city’s streets meet those standards, the 75 percent rule would disappear, allowing cities to spend more on new projects.

Sacramento Regional Transit, which operates buses and light-rail trains throughout much of the county, also would be required to spend 75 percent of its tax allocation in the first five years on shoring up basic operations, such as replacing buses, doing maintenance, upgrading stations and improving security.

The measure also would provide money to advance several major county projects, including a $700 million widening of the Capital City Freeway between midtown and Interstate 80 near Watt Avenue, the region’s most congested freeway. Other projects include widening Grant Line Road into an expressway, and a light-rail extension to Natomas and the airport.

With passage of Measure B, the Sacramento County sales tax rate would be 8.25 percent, and the city of Sacramento rate would 8.75 percent. The highest county rate in the state is Alameda’s, at 9.5 percent. Some cities have 10 percent rates.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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