After moving toward placing the tax on the ballot during its June meeting, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission voted 6-5 on Aug. 2 to do the opposite.
The commission’s decision was in line with a new recommendation by RTC staff to hold off on asking voters to pass a tax.
Previously, the RTC had recommended placing the measure before voters Nov. 6. Such a measure would require a yes vote from 67 percent of voters.
Capitola Mayor Kirby Nicol, the chairman of the commission, cast the deciding vote.
Nicol said the commission needed far more money than the $10 tax would have raised each year, and a recent blunder by California State Parks made campaigning for the tax seem like a poor proposition. In July, the parks department discovered more than $50 million in accounts that were unaccounted for in budget projections. Nicol said that shook voters’ confidence.
“We took a poll several months ago,” Nicol said Monday. “It said there was 65 percent voter approval for the measure. Then there was the state parks fiasco, and we saw apathy turn to cynicism to downright hostility.”
Santa Cruz County has a backlog of more than $250 million in necessary road construction projects. Nicol said that in his view, it was not worth expending the political capital that would be required to pass a tax with two-thirds voter approval just to raise about $2 million each year.
Nicol said the commission had discussed a quarter-cent sales tax that would generate about $14 million per year, but he expected it would be two years before it could be put to a vote. The opinion poll taken by the Regional Transportation Commission found that 65 percent of county voters would pass a $10 vehicle registration tax, but 77 percent of voters would pass a quarter-cent sales tax for roads.
District 4 County Supervisor Greg Caput moved to support the staff recommendation not to place the measure on the ballot. Scotts Valley City Councilman Dene Bustichi seconded the motion, and Supervisorial District 5 alternate Donna Zeil, Scotts Valley alternate Donna Lind, city of Santa Cruz representative Don Lane and Nicol all voted with Caput and Bustichi.
Those in favor of putting the tax measure on the ballot were District 1 Supervisor Neil Coonerty, District 2 Supervisor Ellen Pirie, District 3 Supervisor John Leopold, Watsonville city representative Eduardo Montesino and Santa Cruz Metro representative Lynne Robinson.
To comment, email editor Peter Burke at email@example.com, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.