Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s transportation authority has taken another step toward asking voters in 2020 for early renewal of a sales tax that pays for regional road and transportation upgrades, hoping to guarantee infrastructure funding for decades to come.
A subcommittee for the countywide transportation entity’s 12-member board approved spending up to $75,000 on consulting services from Santa Rosa-based Muelrath Public Affairs and polling through EMC Research, headquartered in Oakland. The two firms will help shape the questions to be asked of likely voters starting next month, offering results this fall to the full board so they can decide whether to place a measure on the ballot in November 2020.
Board members hope the poll also offers insight into voters’ appetite for a quarter-cent tax versus a possible half-cent option, the type of projects the measure might fund and how long it should remain on the books. Measure M, the county’s current quarter-cent sales tax for transportation, was approved in November 2004 and is set to expire in April 2025.
“The whole goal is to reach out and actually know what the public’s interest is,” said Cotati Councilman Mark Landman, chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. “It’s important when you undertake something like a tax measure to show clearly to the public the benefits that they’ll receive.”
The survey work comes as several other potential countywide ballot measures appear to be taking shape for the primary or general elections next year. Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit board members are poised to vote later this fall on whether to seek an early renewal of the quarter-cent sales tax that supports operation of the commuter train system. Sonoma County also is exploring the possibility of proposing a pair of tax measures to bolster firefighting services and mental health care.