Why Measure B is a bad deal for Sacramento taxpayers

By Craig Powell

and Katy Grimes

Special to The Bee

October 31, 2016 03:05 PM

Construction crews work on eastbound Interstate 80 in Sacramento in October 2015. Measure B would add a half cent to the countywide sales tax to fund road repairs and transportation projects. Rich Pedroncelli Associated Press file
Construction crews work on eastbound Interstate 80 in Sacramento in October 2015. Measure B would add a half cent to the countywide sales tax to fund road repairs and transportation projects. Rich Pedroncelli Associated Press file

Why are local politicians and their business cronies pressing so hard this year to double the Measure A transportation tax and snatch a larger share of our family incomes with Measure B?

You’d never know it from reading the glossy campaign mailers, but Sacramento County taxpayers are already paying a gusher of transportation sales taxes under Measure A, which voters agreed to renew for 30 more years until 2039.

It brings in a whopping $110 million annually and has been increasing by 4 percent a year, growing with our economy and spending. It is projected to bring in an eye-popping $3 billion over the next 23 years to fund road repairs, road construction, and Regional Transit operations and expansions.

The big push to double the tax isn’t because additional transportation funding is badly needed. It’s because supporters’ polling shows that voters just might be persuaded to approve such a hike this year.

But their polling also shows that if voters hear the basic arguments against the tax, they will reject Measure B by a significant margin. Measure B would double the current tax. It has an unreasonably long 30-year life. And it would increase subsidies for the notoriously mismanaged and unreformed Regional Transit.

Their cynical strategy is to overwhelm voters with an avalanche of slick mailers and sophisticated PR, and hope that voters never hear the powerful arguments against Measure B.

We believe that local officials are even illegally spending your taxpayer money to fund misleading “informational mailers” that are indistinguishable from campaign mailers.

Documents show that local governments and the “Yes on Measure B” campaign are working hand in glove. Our research indicates that one half of the estimated $1.2 million spent so far to sell Measure B has come from taxpayers, with the rest provided mostly by corporations that hope to profit from contracts should Measure B pass.

We filed a complaint against this illegal use of taxpayer money with the Sacramento County grand jury last month, but the mailings keep coming.

Last month, Eye on Sacramento issued a detailed report on how local governments have been spending Measure A taxes. The report, prepared by a nationally recognized transit expert, catalogs how RT wastes money by paying overtime to bus drivers while they’re on vacation, wastes $10 million annually because it doesn’t use part-time drivers and wasted $43 million of Measure A money building a useless one-stop “train to nowhere.”

The report also reveals how over $250 million of Measure A dollars are being wasted paying interest on unnecessary borrowing, diverting dollars needed for road maintenance and construction. Finally, the report lays out an alternative transit strategy that would increase ridership and take people where they want to go, such as Sacramento State, which isn’t served by light rail.

Don’t double the tax. Vote “no” on Measure B.

Craig Powell is president of Eye on Sacramento and chairman of the No on Measure B campaign committee and can be contacted at Ckpinsacto@aol.com. Katy Grimes is president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association and can be contacted at fetchingjen@gmail.com.