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SANDAG Hosts ‘Telephone Town Halls’ On Tax Increase

The San Diego Association of Governments wants the public to comment on how it should spend money from a potential sales tax increase that could go on the November ballot.

SANDAG Hosts 'Telephone Town Halls' On Tax Increase

GUEST:

Gary Gallegos, Executive Director, SANDAG

Transcript

SANDAG is hosting four telephone town hall events this week and next week to get comments from San Diego County residents on a potential ballot measure in November to raise the sales tax to fund infrastructure projects.

Gary Gallegos, executive director of the regional planning agency, said participants will dial in and listen to a presentation from SANDAG leaders. If they want, they can enter a telephone queue to make comments and ask questions.

Photo by Andrew Bowen

SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos speaks at the agency's downtown San Diego headquarters, Jan. 21, 2016.

The San Diego Association of Governments has already done polling and focus groups on the possible ballot measure, and an online survey is underway.

"It's a process to allow us to be interactive," Gallegos said. "We get to hear from people (and) understand what they think is important, and why they think we ought to be doing A, B or C."

In October, SANDAG passed a 35-year regional transportation plan. Environmental groups criticized it for not putting enough money into biking, walking and public transit projects, and many of those same groups are now calling on SANDAG to make this new tax measure transit-first.

"We think that there’s probably a lot of appetite for doing things a little differently, to encourage transit and smart growth," said Colin Parent, policy counsel for the nonprofit Circulate San Diego. "And hopefully this gives an opportunity for San Diegans to make those opinions known."

Gallegos said on Tuesday's Midday Edition, “I think the region is broad. It’s diverse. What might work in one community may not always work in another community. What might be a need and a desire in North County may be a lot different than in central San Diego or East County or South Bay.”

The potential tax increase, which SANDAG says would not exceed one-half cent, would be in addition to Transnet, the half-cent sales tax approved by San Diego County voters in 2004. The new tax would need support from two-thirds of the county’s voters to pass.

Ron Roberts, chairman of the SANDAG board and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, recently acknowledged achieving that vote total is a difficult hurdle, but he said San Diego is falling behind Los Angeles and and San Francisco in transportation infrastructure.

In 2008, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, a half-cent sales tax that is funding an unprecedented expansion of the region's rail network. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown paved the way for another half-cent sales tax to go before Los Angeles voters in November.

The state and federal governments often match local spending on infrastructure projects, meaning new local revenue could be amplified two- or threefold.

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