Recently, there are several organizations that have voted to boycott all sales tax measures on the ballot in November. Conspicuously absent in the groups that have voted to oppose all sales tax measures, is the ECA. I feel an explanation is due our members and other readers of this Newsletter.
The NCBE, Farm Bureau, and North Bay Leadership Council, are all voting on a 2020 moratorium of all sales tax measures, because, as the NCBE states “No, Not Now” is the message to the elected.
The ECA agrees with the sentiment, but the reason the ECA is supporting Measure M is because it is exactly that “No, Not Now”. If Measure M is reauthorized, there is no tax that comes out of a taxpayer’s wallet until 2025. So Measure M certainly abides by the sentiment that businesses and individuals cannot afford any more taxes right now. But five years from now is not now.
The ECA supports Measure M reauthorization. The ECA does not support any of the other tax measures that will appear on your November ballot. We like only one-the one that does not kick in until 2025 so taxpayers are not hurt when they are down due to Covid-19.
The ECA is not some sort of ostrich with our head buried in the sand. We have had extended discussions at the Exec Committee level, and the Government Affairs Committee level, and we took those discussions to our Board of Directors to make certain our Directors were informed, and were able to digest the issues that other organizations, and myself, have experienced in the last few months. Although we usually are in agreement on most issues that the North Bay Leadership Council and the North Coast Builders Exchange favor, we are not in agreement on boycotting all sales tax measures this November.
Our Board voted unanimously to back the Measure M Reauthorization in November. This latest vote occurred on July 21, 2020. Some of the discussions and reasons for supporting the ¼ cent sales tax extension that would take effect in 2025 and last for 20 years are as follows:
*As to the other groups (mainly voiced publicly by the North Bay Leadership Council as being a main reason for unifying to have a moratorium on all sales tax measures in 2020) being concerned that the Board of Supervisors “are not listening to business interests”: The Board of Supervisors make themselves available for discussion to me and the other groups every week. There are times when I am representing the ECA interests and ask the BOS to consider our viewpoint on an issue, and I have always found they listen. They weigh our perspective with the other information they have, and sometimes they vote the way we would like, and sometimes they do not. But they have always considered our perspective. I am not in agreement that the BOS is not listening to business interests.
*To the point I have heard as to “the “time is not right” for asking taxpayers to be burdened with a sales tax”: The ECA agrees that other sales tax measures should not be moved forward. The other sales tax measures hit the tax payer immediately, while Measure M doesn’t kick in until 2025. So why is November not the right time? The existing Measure M is still in effect at ¼ cent for the year 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024. No new sales tax is seen by any taxpayer until 2025. So, no taxpayer would be burdened while the Covid-19 Pandemic has throttled their business. We certainly understand we should not be asking taxpayers for more money right now-they have been seriously damaged by the economic crisis due to Covid-19. But we certainly expect the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic problems will be better by 2025.
*Measure M allows taxpayers to get matching funds from other taxes levied on fuel, registration, and other fees collected on the Federal and State levels. Those additional fees and taxes (mostly from fuel excise taxes) will still be paid by taxpayers in Sonoma County whether Measure M passes or not. The key difference in Measure M vs other sales tax measures being put to the voters in November, is that Measure M would allow us to get some of those other taxes paid to be routed back to Sonoma County if Measure M is reauthorized. The SCTA and Suzanne Smith have been extremely effective at getting our share (and in most cases, more than our share) of matching money by virtue of having Measure M in place. If Measure M goes away, taxpayers would still pay taxes, but we would get no benefit from those taxes being paid. The other sales tax measures being proposed do not have the stellar track record of getting matching funds that Measure M has.
*Measure M has been a great economic stimulus for local economies. While there is no guarantee that local contractors will continue to get the big share of the bid opportunities for building and repairing roads, paths, bridges and sidewalks in Sonoma County, there is a “track record” that local workers dominate those projects and local owners are the overwhelming majority of the successful bidders on those projects. Measure M has funded thousands of good paying jobs over the last 16 years, and the profits wages tend to stay right here in Sonoma County. Those dollars get utilized in hiring insurance firms, CPA’s, attorneys, and get turned over in the local economy by helping charities, buying groceries, going to restaurants, buying cars and trucks, and any number of other economic stimulus that $16 million a year provides.
*The reason Measure M needs to be reauthorized before it expires in 2024, is because many funding projects take several years to go through right of way purchasing, design, development of plans and specs, and finally go to bid and get under construction. No matching funds can be made available unless the local entity shows it can “self-help” in the cost of the project. So, if we lose out on matching funding for two years when Measure M can come back to voters in 2022, we just paid two years of other taxes that went to other jurisdictions other than Sonoma County. The SCTA has not overspent what funding they have gotten from the taxpayers, they have smartly set those funds aside and earmarked them for projects that are being designed right now. It is a process. These projects do not happen overnight. They take several years to develop. That is why the reauthorization of Measure M is going to the voters now. Because now it is the best time to lock it in and get matching funding.
*Lastly-the “split” in the Measure M reauthorization has a favorable amount of the taxpayer dollar going to roads, bike paths, sidewalks, and bridges. The folks that lobbied hard for public transit dollars and for climate change reductions are not going away. They will be back negotiating for a bigger chunk of any future Measure M tax monies that are voted on. Rest assured, the deal that was negotiated over the last many months is the absolute best deal roads can expect. And in two years, should Measure M fail this November, less of the taxpayer dollar will go to roads in 2022 as support for roads is not going to be as strong then as it is now.
As the ECA contemplated the worthy aspirations of other groups to boycott ALL sales tax measures, there was ECA sentiment to oppose all sales tax measures except one. The one that drives our economy and will not burden taxpayers while they recover from Covid-19 business slowdown. The only sales tax measure that can multiply and get other tax monies to come back to our local economy.
All sales tax measures are not created equal. Measure M may not be accepted by the voters in November, but if it is defeated, I hope that voters understand why it is different from the others. It should not be defeated simply because other groups have arbitrarily lumped all sales tax measures together as being “Not the Right Time”.
Measure M fixes a problem of poor roads, does so in a way that benefits local workers and local companies, and does no damage to a taxpayer’s wallet until the year 2025.
For those reasons and others, the ECA does not support a “blanket” boycott of all sales tax measures in Sonoma County. We do not believe all sales tax measures are created equally. Measure M has done a tremendous amount of good in Sonoma County, and if passed by the voters, will act like a stimulus package that will immediately help the local economy recover. None of the other tax measures can say that.
That is why the ECA supports one tax measure-the Reauthorization of Measure M.
That’s All Folks