Just two days after plans were approved to renew Measure D-the existing half-cent sales tax surcharge used to finance road construction and repairs-a group calling itself Santa Barbara County Coalition Against Automobile Subsidies filed a legal challenge against placing the issue on the ballot this November. The new organization claims it’s illegal to use public funds to engage in “electioneering.”
Members of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments-the proponent of renewing the sales tax surcharge-claim they have no intention of electioneering, and insist the law allows public agencies to spend funds to “educate” the public about ballot issues. They also claim the funds generated by the sales tax surcharge will generate more than $30 million over 20 years; that money, they contend, will be essential for basic road maintenance, freeway widening, as well as bike lanes, bus service subsidies and a modest commuter rail pilot project.
Within the environmental community, there is strong disagreement over whether this is enough, and the Sierra Club, for example, has announced its withdrawal from the coalition formed to see that the sale tax surcharge gets approved. That measure-known as Measure A this time around-will need a two-thirds majority to win approval. According to initial polling, the plan enjoys support from 75 percent of those queried countywide.