Salinas Taxpayers Association Supports Transportation Agency for Monterey County Sales Tax and Investment Plan
Below is the text of the April 4, 2016 letter from the Salinas Taxpayers Association to the board of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) in support of the Transportation Safety and Investment Plan and 3/8 Percent Sales Tax on the November 8, 2016 ballot in Monterey County (including Salinas).
April 4, 2016
Re: Transportation Safety and Investment Plan and 3/8 Percent Sales Tax for Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC) – SUPPORT
Dear TAMC Board of Directors:
The Salinas Taxpayers Association provides a forum for debate & analysis of taxes, fees and assessments impacting businesses & residents in Salinas. We support a measure for the November 8, 2016 Monterey County ballot that would impose a three-eighths percent sales (that is, .375%) tax for transportation-related projects in Monterey County. The Association made this decision after research and participation in the process to develop the ballot measure.
We held a public meeting about the proposed tax on January 25, 2016 featuring Debbie Hale, executive director of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC). Following that meeting, a representative of the Salinas Taxpayers Association expressed our concerns at the January 27, 2016 meeting of the TAMC board. The Association then sent a letter to the TAMC board dated February 8, 2016 reiterating our concerns.
We were pleased to see the TAMC board approve a provision about citizens oversight that indicates specifically that a taxpayers association from the Salinas Valley and a taxpayers association from the Monterey Peninsula shall have representatives on an oversight committee.
The Salinas Taxpayers Association believes that diligent and consistent monitoring of the sales tax expenditures by an active citizens’ oversight committee will serve as a protection for taxpayers and a deterrent against unauthorized expenditures and waste and fraud. We also see this committee as a defense against any future proposals by TAMC leaders to divert sales tax funds to build a light rail line to Watsonville that continues from there to a proposed California High-Speed Rail station in Gilroy.
A major concern of taxpayer and business groups in Monterey County – including the Salinas Taxpayers Association – is the inclusion of $20 million (out of $600 million in total anticipated revenue) in the TAMC Transportation Investment Plan for the Fort Ord Recreational Trail and Greenway (FORTAG). We ask if this expenditure is more appropriate for a park district than the Transportation Agency for Monterey County. However, the Salinas Taxpayers Association recognizes the legitimate need for highway and road improvements in Monterey County and also understands the political realities of achieving a two-thirds majority vote of the people to obtain funding for these improvements of motor vehicle transportation.
We expect this $20 million will assuage voters who demand alternative transportation options to motor vehicles and hope that commuters will use this trail as an alternative to highways. It would be a shame if this one expenditure important to certain environmentalist factions in Monterey County spurs voters to reject a revenue source for needed highway and road improvements.
Finally, we recognize that state mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are limiting the ability of Monterey County to expand highway and road capacity. Monterey County voters have rejected sales taxes for transportation projects on four occasions. We should take the opportunity to maintain our existing highways and roads before even maintenance funds are phased out or blocked by the state government or by interest groups intent on discouraging motor vehicle use.