Poll: Transit tax would fail on a ballot

A local transportation sales tax would fail should it go on the ballot next November, according to a poll conducted this fall by the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments.

The poll showed 60 percent support for such a proposal, but because it is a special tax, it needs two-thirds voter approval.

The poll surveyed 800 “high frequency” San Luis Obispo County voters between mid-September and the first week of October. It was commissioned by the council’s board of directors.

The board includes all five county supervisors and representatives of the seven local cities.

The first 300 poll respondents were asked whether they would support a half-cent sales-tax increase for 20 to 30 years. The next 500 were asked whether they would support a quarter-cent increase for four, eight or 16 years. Combined, the polling had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

“Voters are preoccupied with the economy and jobs, are uneasy about their ability to afford additional taxes and have diminished confidence that tax revenues would be spent well,” according to a council staff report.

The survey, which posed several questions, found that transportation is a low priority during these difficult fiscal times.

When asked to list their concerns in order of priority, poll respondents put transit needs toward the bottom of the list.

Improving the local economy took the top spot, followed by balancing local government budgets, reducing crime and gang activity, preventing pollution of beaches and waterways, and improving local schools.

The poll also showed a distrust of local government.

Asked, “Do you have confidence in local political leaders to spend revenues from a new county half-cent sales tax efficiently,” 52 percent said “No.”

The results were not all bleak for county leaders. Fifty-two percent of respondents said improving the county’s transportation system would improve the economy and 55 percent said it would increase jobs.

The report also said the general public is generally unaware of the fiscal problems facing those who provide county public transportation.

Public transit is especially important to seniors, students, lower-income residents and long-distance commuters, according to the report.

Respondents said they would favor reducing fares to those populations as well as people with disabilities.

The council’s board of directors is scheduled to hear the report Dec. 7. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. at the County Government Center at 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.