Monterey Herald: “Monterey County Transportation Sales Tax Vote Too Close To Call”

A third bid for a local transportation sales tax measure hung on the razor’s edge in early Monterey County elections returns Tuesday, hovering just one-hundredth of a percentage point or so away from the needed two-thirds voter approval.

With 59,859 vote-by-mail ballots tallied, Measure X had collected about 67 percent of them.

Transportation Agency for Monterey County executive director Debbie Hale said the campaign was remaining “cautiously optimistic,” noting that early voters tend to be more conservative and thus leery of new taxes, and the difficulty of reaching the two-thirds vote threshold.

“We’re really pleased to be fit at the two-thirds and we’ll be watching the polls very closely,” Hale said. “It’s very close. When every no vote counts twice that of every yes vote, it’s difficult.”

The 30-year, 3/8-cent sales tax expected to raise about $20 million per year was the third time in a decade TAMC has attempted to pass a transportation funding measure.

At its core, the measure promised to split about $600 million between local road and street maintenance and other improvements and a range of regional transportation projects on a 60-40 ratio. Under the measure’s spending plan, the county and its 12 cities would divvy up about $360 million for local priorities, while about $240 million would go to help pay for projects such as upgrades to the Monterey-Salinas and Holman Highways and Highway 101 interchanges in the south Salinas Valley, as well as the Fort Ord Recreational Trail and Greenway, and a series of bus, bicycling and pedestrian safety improvements.

Beyond its project list, the tax measure sought to provide the county with “self-help” status, meaning local transportation projects could qualify for state and federal funding available to regions with a dedicated source of local funding.

It attracted broad support from a swath of various community interests, with only token opposition.

To read the story written by Jim Johnson on the Herald’s website, click onto: