Very soon officials serving on the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) are expected to give thumbs up to a November ballot to ask voters for permission for a half-cent sales tax for roads transportation.
Armed with a public opinion survey that suggests the 2016 attempt may be the charm, officials gathered last month and came up with a spending formula:
• 50 percent of funds will go to local streets and road repair of existing roads;
• 27 percent will be allocated for regional projects, to be determined by the cities and county;
• 10 percent dedicated for improved traffic flow, congestion management and improved road safety;
• 5 percent for bicycle paths and pedestrian improvements; and
• 7 percent for other projects, to include "point to point" transit service for senior citizens, veterans and the disabled; connecting commuters to rail projects; and other locally controlled transportation projects.
"Under this potential spending formula... all communities throughout Stanislaus County will tackle road improvements together, which improves the safety of all county drivers, improves the efficiency of both our urban and rural roads, and improves the overall strength of our region's economy," said Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth, who is Turlock's representative on StanCOG.
During an October phone survey, Godbe Research determined that sup¬port has grown in favor of the special 20-year tax, which is estimated to generate $970 million over a 25-year period. A voter sampling in March 2014 indicated 61 percent support, which deemed insurmountable and election plans were abandoned. The survey taken in October indicated 64 percent of likely voters would vote for a measure raising taxes on sales in the county.
StanCOG opted against pursuing its third attempt at a countywide trans¬portation tax for the November 2014 ballot, an initiative that failed by a narrow margin in both 2006 and 2008 general elections. The agency had discussed bringing the countywide transportation tax to voters in 2014, even going as far as to provide an expenditure plan that was reviewed by the city councils from each of the county's nine jurisdictions. However, the agency pulled the initiative after a countywide poll revealed that the item was unlikely to garner the necessary two-thirds approval for it to pass.
Officials believe the measure has a better chance of passing during the presidential election of 2016 as presi¬dential elections tend to draw more voters who tend to have less cynical views on taxes.