Advocates for a half-cent sales tax to pay for road projects are calling preliminary election results on Measure V a victory for Merced County.
The measure has collected 69.1 percent support from county voters, though the registrar of voters’ staff said thousands of mail-in and provisional ballots remained uncounted as of Wednesday. The proposal needs to win two-thirds approval from voters to pass.
Support from voters for the measure would make Merced a “self-help” county, according to Marjie Kirn, executive director of the Merced County Association of Governments.
“It provides an opportunity for this agency to accomplish its mission in providing the best transportation system that we can for now and for future generations,” she said Wednesday.
It provides an opportunity for this agency to accomplish its mission in providing the best transportation system that we can for now and for future generations.
Marjie Kirn, executive director of Merced County Association of Governments
It’s no secret Merced County’s roads need repair, but area leaders say there’s just not enough local money to follow through on fixes. To that end, Measure V calls for a half-cent tax estimated to generate about $450 million over 30 years, according to the plan.
Self-help counties are more likely to win federal and state funding because the county would have matching funds for road projects, advocates have said.
Kirn noted that Measure L, a similar tax in Stanislaus County, also passed this week. San Joaquin County has had one for many years, she said.
“That’s a great partnership. Now we have the three northern counties in the Valley (which) all have measures to support regional transportation and regional transportation needs,” she said.
The proposed half-cent tax would generate an estimated $1.5 million a year in the city of Merced, and $15 million a year countywide. Each city would get an annual allotment that could be used on local projects as well, according to the measure.
Only good things are going to happen after finally becoming a self-help county.
Kathleen Crookham, a measure supporter and former county supervisor
Area leaders have run three previous unsuccessful attempts at a similar tax since 2002.
Kathleen Crookham, a measure supporter and former county supervisor, said she was “elated” the measure is on its way to passing. “It makes me feel like Merced County has really stepped up to the plate,” she said. “Only good things are going to happen after finally becoming a self-help county.”
The measure had support from many elected officials in Merced County, though others were reluctant to throw their weight behind it.
Los Banos Mayor Mike Villalta was the measure’s most outspoken opponent. In a Nov. 1 opinion piece for the Merced Sun-Star, he listed a number of reasons why he would not support it, including what he said were less than solid guarantees about Los Banos’ share of the funding.
Advocates have argued that the funding’s destination is clearly defined.
“What the measure does contain is a list of vague types of projects our tax dollars could be used for – but only if first approved by MCAG,” he wrote.