Yesterday, the Sonoma County Transportation Authority held a meeting with their Board of Directors to discuss the early direction that the Measure M sales tax measure should take. As you may be aware, Measure M has been in place since 2004, and it is set to expire in April of 2025. Measure M tax revenue, and the shrewd and capable management of Sonoma County Transportation Authority head Suzanne Smith, has been, in large part, responsible for funding the Highway 101 widening projects and many other projects in our area of focus-transportation, roads, and bridges. In case you missed it, back in August of 2019, the subcommittee for the countywide transportation entity SCTA, approved spending $75,000 on consulting services and polling to determine what is important to voters as to renewing Measure M in November of 2020. There is a good article from the Press Democrat on that move and you can read it again, right here
As you are also aware, I sit on the Citizens Advisory Committee that is the “public watchdog” for SCTA and there has been much discussion as to what the “new and improved Measure M” should look like when it is proposed to the voters in November of 2020. The existing Measure M sales tax law collects a ¼ cent sales tax from Sonoma County residents and has been since 2004. A rough average of $21 million per year has been collected for the past 15 years, resulting in around $400 million in tax revenue that has been leveraged with grant funding to create funding in excess of $800 million for road projects since 2004. The estimated revenue from a ¼ cent sales tax Measure moving forward, is approximately $26 million/year.
The original “split” that has been followed, you can see the graph in this : Link
Since SMART has been constructed (I know, partly constructed, but it is now a functioning Rail System), the new “reformed” Measure M will not include the 5% for SMART that Measure M currently has. Also, since Highway 101 has been completely funded (as to the widening in Sonoma County), there is no further need for the 40% that has been allocated to Highway 101 Projects in the current Measure M.
So, it is obvious the new Measure M will have some major revision when the voters see it on their ballot for November 2020. After the polling and consultant input to the subcommittee mentioned in the first paragraph, the current draft of what the reformed Measure M split might look like is this:
This is Purely for Discussion Purposes-not adopted yet
This “Split” is based upon the estimated $26 million sales tax revenue generated in year 1 of the new, reformed, Measure M
transportation: preserving and enhancing our quality of life through
convenient, reliable and accessible transportation 75%
Fix roads (1) 40% $ 10,400,000
Add bus service (2) 18% $ 4,680,000
Affordable access for seniors, youth, veterans and people living with disabilities 2% $ 520,000
Provide clean transportation with zero emission buses and car charging 2% $ 520,000
Enhance transportation options and last mile connections 2% $ 520,000
Build new bikeways (3) 11% $ 2,860,000
Connect Communities: transportation projects and programs that will help people
seamlessly get where they need to go safely and on time 25%
Complete corridor improvements (4) for all modes with projects like: 23% $ 5,980,000
– Infrastructure improvements
– Complete streets
– Support housing in downtown areas
– Access to transit
– Increase safety
– Improve evacuation routes
Use technology to move traffic 2% $ 520,000
Off the top Roads
Admin 1% Transit
Measure M commitments through 2025 Bike
15% match requirement across all projects New tech
(1) Similar to Measure M Local Streets and Roads apportionment program; requires MOE
(2) Similar to Measure M Local Bus Transit apportionment program
(3) Similar to the Measure M Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects program
(4) Somewhat similar to the Measure M Local Street Projects program
As you can see, the amount of dollars going towards fixing roads, would be approximately $16.4 million out of the estimated $26 million in sales tax revenue. That compares to the existing dollar amount (estimated) of $16.8 million (based on Highway 101 plus local road rehab (LSR) and local street projects (LSP). Although the amount of dollars would decrease slightly (around $400k per year), the “appeal” of the new proposed split of sales tax revenue gives more dollars to many of the causes and groups that might normally oppose sales taxes going towards roads. It is a “tradeoff”.
You might also note under footnote (1) above in yellow, it says “requires MOE”. This is one of the main things I have been “lobbying” for in the past several years. MOE stands for Minimum of Effort and has to do with the nine cities in Sonoma County and Sonoma County itself, having to continue spending their own dollars on road projects in order to get the portion of the Measure M sales tax dollars they are entitled to. This is so important because without it, I have no doubt that the nine cities in Sonoma County would stop funding street projects altogether and rely 100% on sales tax dollars from Measure M. That is not fair to the taxpayers, and I have made it clear that the ECA would not support any attempt to “slide that through” in the language of the new Measure M proposal. It should be noted that Suzanne Smith has always “been on board” with a strong MOE being required.
I sent the proposed Measure M Strawman proposal (for discussion purposes only) out to several key members of the ECA to get approval, and then I wrote the linked letter to Suzanne Smith in conditional support of the Straw Man Proposal.
I also spoke with several of our good friends about what I hope will be their support of this Measure (although it is way too early for them to commit support or opposition to this proposal). I maintain close communication with Sonoma County Alliance, the North Coast Builders Exchange, and the Save Our Sonoma County Roads (SOS) groups. In all candor, some of these groups have not had a chance to familiarize themselves with the proposal, but they will.
That’s All Folks