Measure A: The driving force behind newly proposed road repairs tax act

Dylan Grise, Contributing Writer

Founding father Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Only two things are guaranteed in life; death and taxes.” It looks like the latter of the two may be on the rise again here in Sonoma County.

We’ve all seen it coming, and we only have ourselves to blame. Our frustrated voices are finally being heard from behind the steering wheels of gridlocked cars throughout the county, as a new ordinance is on the ballot to raise money desperately needed for more than 1,000 miles of Sonoma County roads. Of course, the expected source of funding for this is going to be you and me: the taxpayers. It’s no surprise this measure isn’t welcomed by most, but it should be.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has proposed the Sonoma County Measure A, with the goal of raising enough money for repairs in the 1,440 miles of less-than-optimal roadways in the county. It is expected to raise about $20 million for the county in the first year alone, with a three percent increase estimated in the following years.

The original proposal in October was slated to be on the voting ballots back in March as a general sales tax increase for the next 20 years. This proposal was not well received. Polling showed people were wary since they weren’t being given enough time to think about the tax ordinance before the original ballot, as well as the length of the commitment to a tax increase with unclear destinations for the funds. Others are raising eyebrows because there isn’t a specific plan for where the tax money would go, but it’s been openly stated by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that two-thirds of the raised funding will go to repair roads in the Sonoma Valley area needing it most.

As a taxpayer and frequent Sonoma County traveler, I don’t see an issue with this proposal. Based off  data from the Census Bureau, the quarter-percent general sales tax increase would be just over $73 per person per year. I can’t think of the number of times I’ve sat in traffic or driven down a pothole-ridden road wondering when someone would do something to fix these issues. Now, they’re fixable for next to nothing.

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit said, “We’ve brought a coalition to the table that we think can make this work. There is no opposition to it so far.”

That sounds great for moving things along, but ultimately this decision comes down to us: the taxpayers, the drivers- and most importantly, the voters. For a tax measure like this to pass, the two-thirds majority rule applies. Historically, that’s been a difficult task to accomplish. To appease Sonoma County residents, the ordinance will now be on the June ballot, and the length of the tax bump will only be for five years, giving voters more time to think about the proposal. As easy as it is to say this is just another unnecessary tax increase, give it a second look.

The supervisors also decreased the length of time associated with the tax to make it a much shorter commitment should the proposal pass. Paying a little more each month hurts us all – some more than others – but we can, and should do what is needed to get the funding necessary to fix these roads. Sonoma County has lost more than $175 million in property and income taxes since 2006 due to the recession. The roads in this county are well past their prime, and as far as road repairs go, the price grows exponentially over time.

We need to fix the roads and we need to do it before the situation becomes unmanageable. As taxpayers, we need to be here for our county as much as it’s here for us.