Sacramento County is at an exciting crossroads. Our economy is rebounding and the region is growing. Unfortunately, a critical element is lagging – transportation.
We all experience it. Being late for work because traffic is bumper to bumper on the Capital City Freeway. Facing expensive repairs because of broken pavement and potholes. Waiting for a late bus on the day you really need a ride to the doctor.
There are real consequences to deteriorating roads and inadequate transit – in time, money, frustration and personal safety. This is why we need Measure B, the countywide transportation sales tax measure on the November ballot.
Measure B would provide stable, long-term funding to repave roads, fill potholes, ease congestion, improve transit services and make streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. It has support across the county, including a majority of voters and every local government, business organizations and labor unions, bike and pedestrian advocates and many others.
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Passage, which requires a two-thirds majority, is imperative. Measure A, approved in 1988 and renewed by voters in 2004, was mainly for capital projects and will not cover anything close to the county’s needs, especially for maintenance and repair. State and federal funding was slashed during the recession, and primary funding for local road maintenance from the gas tax continues to decline. Measure B is necessary to secure matching state and federal transportation funds. Otherwise, these resources will be left on the table while other counties get the lion’s share.
Measure B, which would raise $3.6 billion over 30 years through a half-cent sales tax, takes a balanced approach, committing 70 percent of funds for road and bridge repair and maintenance, and 30 percent for transit. The plan requires a locally controlled “fix it first” commitment of 75 percent of funds during the first five years to address deferred repair and maintenance. And the actual impact on county residents will be a quarter-cent, because the statewide Proposition 30 sales tax of one-quarter-cent expires in 2017.
Working families would save on expensive commutes, and better road maintenance would alleviate vehicle wear-and-tear. Measure B would benefit seniors and disabled residents who depend on local bus service and Paratransit. Also included are bike and pedestrian improvements, and safety enhancements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Security on light rail would improve further, and fewer cars idling in traffic would help air quality.
Isn’t that worth an extra penny on a $4 purchase?
Accountability is critical, which is why Measure B would establish an independent taxpayers oversight committee to conduct an annual audit to ensure that all funds are spent according to the voter-approved expenditure plan. The plan can be reviewed every 10 years and funds can be reallocated if an extraordinary situation arises, but only if a majority of cities and the county Board of Supervisors approve.
Measure B is sound public policy, sorely overdue and critical to our future.
Darrell Steinberg is mayor-elect of Sacramento and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Susan Peters represents District 3 on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and can be contacted at email@example.com.