SLO County’s sales tax—and road conditions—will likely stay the same for the time being as county voters appear to have narrowly rejected Measure J, a proposed half-percent sales tax increase to raise money for local transportation infrastructure.
Measure J needed a 66.67 percent supermajority vote to pass, and as of Nov. 9, it garnered 65 percent support. The results are unofficial, since Election Day mail-in ballots and provisional ballots were still being counted.
Crafted by the SLO Council of Governments (SLOCOG) over many months to address a shortfall in state funding, Measure J would have raised
$225 million over nine years. Its proponents argued that a local revenue stream to contribute to transportation projects was sorely needed amid declining funds and political gridlock at the state level.
But opponents to Measure J saw the tax as just another money grab at the “forgotten” taxpayer, and a reward for irresponsible governance.
One of those opponents, Andrea Seastrand, president of the Central Coast Taxpayers Association, refrained from declaring victory but told New Times she’s “cautiously optimistic” that the measure was defeated.
Seastrand called on SLO County and the state to start finding solutions for SLO’s roads without raising taxes.
“The state has never prioritized infrastructure, and the Board of Supervisors refused to prioritize infrastructure,” Seastrand said. “And yet they come to the taxpayer asking for more.”
Ron De Carli, executive director of SLOCOG, said the agency would have to make some tough decisions, if Measure J fails, about what projects it can fund for the foreseeable future. He indicated that traffic congestion relief and bike and pedestrian projects could be impacted.
“We have to regroup,” DeCarli said. “The minority has spoken. Under a normal election, it would have been considered an absolute landslide. But for a special tax, it’s not high enough.”