Supervisors weigh ballots on new taxes

Cannabis tax proposed for June primary

County voters may be asked to vote on several different tax measures in the June and November elections.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors this week began looking at tax ballot measures to fund regional road repairs, public safety, and administrative payrolls.

First one the list is cannabis: On Tuesday Feb. 20, supervisors directed staff to prepare options for a potential cannabis tax measure that could go before voters in the June 5 Primary Election.

In the months ahead, supervisors said they also will consider additional tax measures to place on the ballot in the Nov.6 General Election, including a 1 percent general sales tax and a potential transportation sales tax for road repair.

Options for a potential cannabis tax will be up for board consideration at a March 6 meeting, just a few days before the June primary election filing deadline on March 9.

According to county staff, the cannabis tax would apply to any pot businesses in the unincorporated area of San Benito County. Compare this to the City of Hollister, who negotiates taxes and fees in individual development agreements with each cannabis operation in city limits. The county cannabis tax would be across the board, but numbers have yet to be defined.

The Resource Management Agency is currently working on a draft cannabis business ordinance that is expected to go before the board in April. The board of supervisors previously approved a ban on any and all existing cannabis activity in the unincorporated area of the county in December 2017.

Other taxes

Although the potential cannabis tax is the only ballot measure San Benito County is planning for the June primary, county leaders appear ready to decide on other possible taxes.

“I know there was some discussion about voting to raise taxes, but that’s not what you would be doing,” Management Analyst Louie Valdez told supervisors at the Tuesday morning meeting. “You would be voting to place an item on the ballot for voters to voice their opinion on whether or not they want to increase that general sales tax.”

Supervisors are torn between supporting a Council of San Benito County Governments (COG) transportation sales tax or floating their own general sales tax. While a transportation sales tax would contribute money toward fixing roads and big transportation projects like widening Highway 25, a general sales tax would have more flexible uses. A general sales tax could help fund focus areas such as employee recruitment, retention, compensation, and department staffing levels, the new jail construction and operational costs, unincorporated fire and law enforcement service protection, a county library remodel/renovation, and more.

Valdez said the board needed a vision about what it will do with any future funds from the potential general sales tax.

“Three simple, but compelling goals the board can look at as a strategic measure is to explain to the public how it going to use their funds is increasing and improving the level of public safety, improving services to the community including the workforce, and business development.”

A general sales tax would require four-fifths majority approval from county supervisors to place it on the November ballot.

“I feel it is important if we go forward with a sales tax, we need to engage our bargaining units,” Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said, referring to the labor unions that represent county employees.

If a general purpose sales tax were to move forward, supervisors would have until August 10 to make the filing deadline for the Nov. 6 General Election. If approved by a majority vote of 50 percent plus one, the current county unincorporated sales tax rate of 7.25 percent would increase to 8.25 percent.

Previous sales tax failed

The board previously considered a 1 percent sales tax for the 2016 ballot, but voted 3-2 in November 2015 to put it off until 2018.

County Supervisor and COG Chairman Jaime De La Cruz said Tuesday that he was interested in pushing forward with a sales tax to address roads.

“If we don’t try in November for a road sales tax, we’re pushing ourselves back further,” De La Cruz said. “Sooner or later, we’re hoping the public understands that we need to fix our roads.”

While De La Cruz would not rule out a general sales tax completely, he said it could have a better chance in 2020.

“If we’re going to push a general sales tax to the public, we need to give the public a reason to have confidence in us that we’ll be doing the right thing,” De La Cruz said. “I honestly believe a general sales tax has a better chance in 2020. It will be a presidential race with higher turn out. You have a non-presidential race this year.”

The regional transportation agency worked to get a transportation sales tax passed in June 2016 with Measure P. The ballot measure fell well short of the necessary two-thirds vote, with 40.23 percent of eligible voters choosing No and 59.77 percent choosing Yes.

“Right now we’ve got to show that we’re going to do good for the community and I believe the road tax is the ambassador between the community and the board of supervisors,” De La Cruz said.

Supervisor Mark Medina said the county should look into spending money with the Economic Development Corporation of San Benito County to bring more businesses to the region to raise up the economy compared to increasing taxes.

“I continuously talk about growing the economy,” Medina said. “That’s where the revenue should come from. We need businesses here and with all respect to our staff, we need to be more business-friendly. If we invest in our county, if we invest in things that create revenue, life is much more simple than going to our residents every three to four years asking for a percent.”

4 COMMENTS

  1. Leaders LEAD with a vision and a roadmap….. Sadly, I do not see any of that in this article…. We NEED revenue to improve our quality of life here in San Benito County with both new businesses and taxes to support the infrastructure…. not either / or.

  2. Dear Friends, If we abolished COG, privatized transit, and made everyone responsible for paying for their own transportation, we’d have enough money to repair the highways. Both the President’s (Bush II) Blue Ribbon Commission on Transport Funding, and the California Transportation Commission, recommended that we fund transport with “user fees.” The fares that transit patrons pay for their rides are “user fees.” Tax subsidies from motorists to fund bankrupt boondoggles, e.g., County Transit, Dial A Ride, Caltrain, Lite Rail, ACE Train, BART, Amtrak, Bullet Train, are not “user fees.” Our leaders have us on the same route taken by the USSR, the Road to Serfdom. I went to COG’s meetings for ten years, and told them that they were like the Captain of the Titanic: Iceberg Dead Ahead, so quit rearranging your socks in your sock drawer. They are a failed experiment in radical socialism by any rational measure, yet they proclaim themselves to be a “success,” and rate their service A+++++. The get top grades in socialism, shafting motorists, and jeopardizing motorists safety. The late Janet Graham, SBC Health Nurse, and Chairwoman of SBC Safe Kids Coalition, on which I served, asked me to go to COG and beg them to make Hwy 25 a “Safety Corridor” like parts of US101, long before Mayor Brad Pike started “Safe on 25 Stay Alive.” COG’s directors, in their wisdom, did nothing, except plump their own nest with more empty transit bus seat transport to reward their special interest friends. Then she sent me to Lucille Packard Foundation in Palo Alto to speak on the then-new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. Later, and ironically, she was killed in a head-on cross-over crash on Hwy 25. I gave the Safe Kids Coalition’s eulogy at her church at her funeral, “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne. COG refuses to place motorists’ safety as their #1 Top Priority instead of empty bus seat transport on County Transit. SBC is the only County in California with two transit agencies. They are unelected to COG, so govern without voters’ consent, and not subject to recall remedies in the State Constitution. They use Enron-style, Bernie Madoff-style, “off book” accounting, which covers-up their true boondoggle losses by omitting capital and fixed costs from their financial reports of their boondoggle operations. If any of my clients used such non-GAAP accounting, then they’d be prosecuted for violating the Unfair Business Practices Act, and for false advertising. But the Legislature allows the transit agencies to use the deceitful accounting methods so popular with Bernie Madoff and Enron. If we cannot recall COG Directors, then we ought to recall those who send their “committee appointees” to COG: BOS and City Council. It’s time to end the double standard in transport policy. Taxpayers are taxed to smithereens to pay for politicians’ boondoggles. COG Directors reward waste, and are proud of it. Caveat viator. Joseph P. Thompson, Esq., Past-Chair, Legislation Committee, and Member, Transportation Lawyers Assn., Past-President (2x) Gilroy-Morgan Hill Bar Assn., Charter Member SBCCOG Citizens Rail Advisory Committee, Charter Member, SBCCOG Citizens Transit Task Force; e-Mail: [email protected]; 408-848-5506 PS: I urge all motorists to sign the petition to repeal the Gas Tax Increase SB-1. JPT

  3. Mr. Chief Justice John Marshall correctly concluded: “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 327 (1819). The Founders went to war over taxes that hardly appear on radar screens today. The confiscatory level of taxes/fees/fines/assessments/mandates, combined with crucifying regulations, have made California the Small Business Killing Fields. Every bankruptcy or business leaving is another pelt on local politicians’ wampum belts. They have made it so bad that the small business failure rate is 80% (4 out of 5) in the first five years. It’s worse for some (truckers, restaurants) than for others (doctors, realtors), but nobody is immune from financial distress. The wealth redistribution syndrome endemic in local government targets the self-sufficient, like transit agencies feasting off gas&diesel taxes, and our elected leaders aid and abet and condone the persecution. And they persecute us thru unelected joint power authorities like COG, where the appointed Directors of that governmental body, separate from the County and the two Cities, are immune from voters’ recall, and the Directors have no accountability to voters because they are appointed. Their waste is rewarded by our leaders, and concealed by false financial accounting that is prohibited for us to use by the State and federal tax regs. The conceal their immense waste of tax dollars by Enron-style, Bernie Madoff-style, “off book,” accounting, which a COG Chairman told me was “generally accepted government accounting.” Yep. Unaccountable, non-transparent, and have contempt for the voters. They just want to reward their special interest supporters, using O.P.M. (other peoples’ money—yours and mine). How many more neighbors from SBC will flee California? How many more small business owners will be forced into Bankruptcy Court. Our leaders refuse to cut their boondoggles, and instead, increase our tax&fee burdens, just like Sacramento does. They remind me of medieval physicians whose blood-sucking leeches killed their patients, and then blamed the family for not calling them out sooner to apply the blood-sucking leeches. And we let them do this to us? Unless we reverse course, we’ll be like Vallejo, Stockton, Detroit and the other bankrupt governments governing ghost towns whose residents fled. Caveat viator. Joseph P. Thompson, Esq., Past-Chair, Legislation Committee, Transportation Lawyers Assn. (408) 848-5506 e-Mail: [email protected]

Leave your comments