Transportation Leaders Finish Crafting Tax Measure
By Barry Eberling
SUISUN CITY - Transportation leaders on Wednesday completed crafting a half-cent county transportation sales tax measure that could raise an estimated $1.57 billion over 30 years.
The Solano Transportation Improvement Authority board unanimously approved the measure, with one member absent. Mayors from Solano County's seven cities and county Supervisor John Vasquez comprise the board.
All that remains is for the county Board of Supervisors to consider placing the measure on the June 6 ballot. Supervisors are to take action on Tuesday.
STIA board members are hoping they've come up with a projects list that strikes home with voters. The tax is to do such things as help fix the Interstates 80 and 680 interchange, improve Highway 12, fill in potholes on local roads and add trains, buses and ferries.
Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said 11 public meetings were held in 2005 and 2006, plus four meetings of a 62-member citizens advisory committee.
"I think we have a pretty good handle on what the public wants, in terms of priorities," Halls said.
The tax spending list comes with the endorsement of the county Board of Supervisors and all seven of Solano County's cities. The county and each city council voted on the spending plan in recent weeks.
Thirty-six elected officials voted for the plan at those meetings and four against, with one abstention. One councilmember in both Benicia and Dixon and two county supervisors voted against it, though some said they hoped their concerns would be worked out.
It remains to be seen whether the tax measure will have organized opposition. Some orderly growth advocates are concerned that better roads without growth controls will lead to sprawl and ultimately more congestion. Local taxpayers groups opposed a previous transportation tax measure. The tax measure must win approval from two-thirds of the voters to pass.
The STIA board on Wednesday made a few changes to the measure. For example, it specified a proposed four-lane version of Highway 12 through rural Jameson Canyon would have limited entrances.
"I think this goes a long way toward making this an ordinance we all can support," Ernest Kimme of the Solano Orderly Growth Committee told the board.
Kimme said it looks "very encouraging" that the orderly growth advocates and transportation sales tax advocates can reach a meeting of minds.
The STIA board did more Wednesday than approve the often-technical language of the tax measure. It also created a citizens "watchdog" committee to monitor the tax, should it be approved by voters.
This committee has slots for 11 members who have yet to be appointed. Each city and the county will appoint one member. The STIA board will appoint three.
"I think this is another way we can build trust in the plan," Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering said.
The committee would meet four times annually. It would do an annual audit on the tax and could comment to the board on the finances of individual, tax-funded projects.
Rio Vista Mayor Eddie Woodruff missed the meeting because he had another meeting in Rio Vista. He has supported the transportation tax ballot measure.
Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at email@example.com.
Transportation Tax Spending List
- Highway improvement and safety: $625 million, 40 percent.
- Local streets and roads: $315 million, 20 percent.
- Commuter mass transit: $190 million, 12 percent.
- Safety projects and safe routes to school: $155 million, 10 percent.
- Money to county and cities for transportation projects: $155 million, 10 percent.
- Senior and disabled mass transit: $115 million, 7 percent.
- Solano Transportation Improvement Authority administration/finance: $15 million, 1 percent.
* Based on 30-year revenue estimate of $1.57 billion
Thursday, February 23, 2006
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