SLO County transportation sales tax measure narrowly failing with all precincts reporting

Southbound traffic crawls along Highway 227 near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport at rush hour on Nov. 25, 2015.
Southbound traffic crawls along Highway 227 near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport at rush hour on Nov. 25, 2015. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The countywide sales tax measure for transportation projects appears to have failed to clear the two-thirds threshold.

Sixty-five percent of voters were in support of Measure J with 100 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night. The measure needs a two-thirds vote — or 66.7 percent — to pass.

But the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder’s office still has outstanding vote-by-mail and provisional ballots to count. In a previous interview, county Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong said he plans to have the vast majority of any outstanding vote-by-mail ballots counted by Friday.

Measure J would generate an estimated $25 million a year for nine years. The revenue would go toward projects to relieve traffic congestion, make road improvements, add bike lanes and perform other transportation upgrades.

Measure J would make San Luis Obispo County into a “self-help” county with a dedicated funding stream that can only be used on local transportation projects — as opposed to relying on state or federal dollars.

It would raise the sales and use tax rates to 8 percent in the unincorporated areas of the county and 8.5 percent in Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo.

The money would be divvied up for regional projects throughout the county; to each city in the county as well as the unincorporated areas for projects selected by each jurisdiction; to bike and pedestrian safety proposals; and to enhanced public transportation for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

The measure received the support of all seven cities as well as the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, the county’s transportation planning agency.

But ppponents of Measure J argued that another tax increase is not the solution to the problem.

“Sacramento politicians need to prioritize spending, cut the waste and bureaucracy and fix our roads,” wrote opponents Andrea Seastrand, president of the Central Coast Taxpayers Association; Terri Stricklin, secretary of the association; and Walter Nielsen, secretary/treasurer of the SLO County Cattlemen’s Political Action Committee in the ballot argument against the measure.

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO