Once again, local voters are being asked to raise taxes on themselves, this time in the form of Measure J, which would add a half-cent to every dollar of an item purchased throughout the county.
Basically, the measure, if passed, would raise about $225 million to be spent on local transportation projects during the nine-year lifetime of the program, called the Self-Help Local Transportation Investment Plan.
The matter has been placed on the ballot because of a falling-off of state funds for local transportation needs. The state has, for example, fewer gas tax dollars because we now go farther on a gallon of gas, so we’re buying less of it. I love that part.
Sometimes, saving has unexpected consequences. We all reduced our consumption of water, and our water bills went up.
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Projects could mean smoother roads, widened freeways, safe routes to school, bike paths and more. Every city and the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County would benefit from passage of this measure.
I’m not sure I like where all the money would go. But I don’t always like where any of the taxes go that I send to the feds. The voter information pamphlet for the measure says it would “improve” the region’s transportation system by fixing potholes, repaving streets, improving bridge safety, making bike and transit improvements within and between communities and even providing safe routes to schools.
I’m not sure it is a function of government to provide a bike and pedestrian lane between Highway 101 and San Gabriel Road or connecting Templeton and Atascadero for bike riders.
I’d rather see the new transportation funds go for actual roadway repair and transportation enhancement, not bike paths, reduced-cost bus service and similar projects. Measure J does limit spending for bike and pedestrian safety and connectivity to 10 percent of the revenue.
Much like a measure approved locally for Atascadero roadway expenditures, this countywide measure provides an independent taxpayer oversight committee. And cities can’t use this money to replace private developer funding that has been committed for any project to help alleviate the direct traffic impacts of new residential, commercial or industrial development.
Hear that, Wal-Mart?
It’s a fact there are a lot of transportation needs facing not only Atascadero, but the whole region. This measure will certainly go a long way in funding those needs.
Overall, I think it makes sense to vote yes on Measure J.
Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.