Over the Hill

Arnold, Compton don’t want to give voters a say on sales tax hike

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to send a half-cent sales tax increase to the November ballot.
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to send a half-cent sales tax increase to the November ballot. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

I was sorry to read that two of our county supervisors seem to believe we voters aren’t capable of making an intelligent decision. They voted Tuesday against calling an election on a proposed sales tax increase.

The sales tax increase would finance transportation projects.

So far, my mind is still open. I need to learn more of the details. We’ve all heard the old saying “The devil is in the details.” But if I don’t find him in there, I’ll be tempted to vote for the increase.

Right now, when we buy something in one of San Luis Obispo County’s incorporated cities, we pay an extra 8 percent as sales tax. In the unincorporated areas, we pay 7.5 percent. The proposed increase would add a half percent to those amounts.

On Tuesday, the county superiors voted 3-2 in favor of putting the proposed increase on the ballot. Supervisors Frank Mecham, Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson voted “yes.” Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton voted “no.”

Mecham said the choice should be made by the people. On the other hand, Compton didn’t think this is a good time to ask us voters for more money.

The proposed increase will be on our Nov. 8 general election ballot. It can only be imposed if at least two-thirds of us vote “yes.” And it would only last nine years.

Here’s the way the new tax money would be divided up: 55 percent would go to the local jurisdictions for their transportation needs. I suppose that means each of the cities and the unincorporated area could spend their shares on repaving and on general transportation upgrades.

Then 20 percent would go for “public transportation improvements, bike and pedestrian improvements.” I’d like to know more details about that. And 25 percent would go toward reducing congestion on main roads and highways. I want to know more about that, too.

I surely hope that some of it could be spent to improve safety on Highway 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel. Here’s a word of warning: If you ever drive on that stretch of road, be aware it isn’t a freeway. Cars pull onto it from side roads.

People driving along at freeway speeds might not even notice the sign warning them that the freeway ended. Others may think, “Why reduce speed? It’s still a divided highway.” But there are no overpasses with on-ramps. Vehicles just pull out from crossroads.

Since Christmas 2014, six people have died in collisions on that 7-mile stretch of highway. Using some sales tax money to improve such situations could persuade me to vote “yes” on the increase. A temporary quick fix could be to install traffic lights at the Wellsona Road intersection.

Now I’d like to reassure the two county supervisors who voted “no” on holding the sales tax election. Ladies, trust the voters. They elected you. They’ll make a good decision on the sales tax increase.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.