Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth has said since he first started campaigning for public office in 2014 that he would only support a countywide road tax if the spending formula guarantees funds would be spent on Turlock road projects. Soiseth is ready to support such a tax as the Stanislaus Council of Governments put forth a potential spending formula on Wednesday that calls for sales tax revenue generated in Turlock staying in Turlock with complete local control over which projects would be funded.
The spending formula proposed by StanCOG for the 2016 ballot includes:50 percent of funds dedicated to local streets and road repair of existing roads;27 percent for regional projects, to be determined by local jurisdictions;10 percent dedicated for improved traffic flow, congestion management and improved road safety; 5 percent for bicycle paths and pedestrian improvements; and7 percent for other projects, to include "point to point" transit service for senior citizens, veterans and the disabled; connecting commuters to rail projects; and other locally controlled transportation projects.
"Under this potential spending formula, Turlock residents will see immediate improvements to our local roads, additional bike lanes, more efficient bus services for our seniors and disabled, and safer routes to schools for our kids. And most importantly, all communities throughout Stanislaus County will tackle road improvements together, which improves the safety of all county drivers, improves the efficiency of both our urban and rural roads, and improves the overall strength of our region's economy," said Soiseth, who is Turlock's representative on StanCOG.
During an October phone survey, Godbe Research determined that support has grown in favor of the special 20-year tax, which is estimated to generate $970 million over a 25-year period. A voter sampling in March 2014 indicated 61 percent support, which deemed insurmountable and election plans were abandoned. The survey taken in October indicated 64 percent of likely voters would vote for a measure raising taxes on sales in the county.
StanCOG opted against pursuing its third attempt at a countywide transportation tax for the November 2014 ballot, an initiative that failed by a narrow margin in both 2006 and 2008 general elections. The agency had discussed bringing the countywide transportation tax to voters in 2014, even going as far as to provide an expenditure plan that was reviewed by the city councils from each of the county’s nine jurisdictions. However, the agency pulled the initiative after a countywide poll revealed that the item was unlikely to garner the necessary two-thirds approval for it to pass.
Officials believe the measure has a better chance of passing during the presidential election of 2016 as presidential elections tend to draw more voters who tend to have less cynical views on taxes.
Turlock voters failed to pass a citywide half cent sales tax in 2014 that would have generated an estimated $5.6 million per year for seven years for road repair and maintenance.
"Turlock's roads are failing. We have a Pavement Condition Index of 64, falling three points in just three years, and this PCI will fall even faster in the future. This countywide half cent sales tax initiative is a regional investment that is the right approach," said Soiseth.
A final vote to ratify a formula and to add this initiative to the ballot will occur at StanCOG's Jan. 20, 2016 meeting.