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Report Imagines What 2020 Tax Measure Could Bring MTS

March 6, 2019 1:54 p.m.

GUEST: Colin Parent, executive director, Circulate San Diego

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Part of the obstacle sandbags executive director faces in turning his vision for a state of the art transportation system into reality is how to pay for it. A new report out today says a half cent sales tax could generate 10 billion dollars for transit and road repair over 40 years. Joining me is Colin parent executive director and general counsel of circulate San Diego a nonprofit think tank and author of the report transit together. Colin welcome. Thank you Imtiaz has been considering a 2020 tax measure and although it's not a done deal you looked at what the measure could mean for the region what did you find.

Yeah. So we found that a measure from MVS could generate at least 10 billion dollars of new revenue that can be spent on transportation improvements and what types of projects could have potential half cent sales tax measure fund. Well that's something that our report looked at. And so we actually looked at a variety of things that a measure like this could could pay for. And they include things like new trolley lines from the border to Kearny Mesa one of our major job centers as well as improvements to the existing trolleys so higher frequencies those sorts of things.

And it could also fund some other stuff that are important to not just transit riders ballot measure like this could pay for pothole repair on those same streets where buses run is 10 billion dollars over 40 years enough to do all this. Yeah. So that is actually one of the key parts of our report transit together as we we not only identified how much money and ballot measure could raise but then we also looked at exactly exactly how you would be able to fit all of these projects within that within that structure and and you can actually do a lot with those measures.

And part of that because that local funding like like from a ballot measure can also bring in some state and federal dollars. It doesn't mean that is going to solve all of the transportation needs in the region forever. But it does show that we can you can do a lot with those kinds of resources.

And could it also pay for a transit connection to the airport.

Yeah absolutely it can. And I think that's one of the key ideas in this in this report and and hopefully in the measure. Lots of other cities in the region have have a great rail connection to their airport.

San Diego doesn't have that and there's no reason we shouldn't expect that from from our transportation system sandbag tried to pass a half cent sales tax increase for transit and highway projects back in 2016. That measure failed after Voice of San Diego discovered San Dag overestimated revenue projections. What lessons can be learned from that to help push a successful measure forward.

Yeah. So it's really important that any ballot measure that's put forward to the voters again has the confidence of the voters we've got to make sure that it's done in a transparent way. But it's also really important that we design a ballot measure with projects in mind that really are going to be attractive to voters that voters are going to want to see happen. We can't just be asking people to spend spend money on on projects that they don't plan to use or that they don't think would benefit them. So that's part of why we're putting this report out.

We want to get people to start talking about you know what would they like to see in such a measure so that they might choose to vote for it. You can't design something like this in a vacuum or in a back you know back room. You really need to broadly engage the public so that we put something together that's going to be attractive to to a diverse group of people.

And have you seen any polling on empty as has potential ballot measure.

You know I have not but my understanding is that emptiest has done some polling and has some preliminary preliminary data. So I'm expecting that we're going to the public will get a chance to see some of that soon.

As you know San Diego needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and get more residents to use public transit in order to meet state and local climate action goals. Can the region meet its climate goals without additional revenue for transit.

No I don't think that they can. So things like this are really key in order to be able to meet those climate goals. And really the way that you address the climate change goal is to make sure that people have a transit system that they want to use that actually serves them that gives them better choices than just having to drive everywhere. And the only way we're gonna be able to do that is is by generating some new revenues. We also need to spend the revenues that we have currently better but that alone is probably not going to finish the job.

Do you think an empty house ballot measure has a better chance has a better chance of overcoming the two thirds majority needed to pass that measure.

A Yeah I think that it does and for for one of the reasons is that an empty US ballot measure is not countywide. It includes a lot of the county city of San Diego s county east county. Those are areas that tend to support more investments and in transit than than the totality of the county and the MTA excludes some of the more resistant areas in North County so that that's a key reason why an empty house measure is more likely to pass. It also is a little more close to home. So you're voting on something it's gonna be something it's going to fund projects that are right adjacent to you and less less of the money is going to go to far off parts of the region.

I've been speaking with Colin parent executive director and general counsel of circulate San Diego. Colin thanks so much for joining us. Hey thanks for having me on.