Taxes continue to go up at every level of government and no one seems to be looking at the cumulative effect.
Measure V, which would add a half-percent to our sales tax rate to fund road repairs and new projects, has been placed on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Since my first election as mayor in 2010, with strong support from the Los Banos City Council and the community at large, I’ve been fighting to keep Los Banos tax revenues at home so we can fix our local problems first.
Our first move was to stop contributing to the job-killing Merced County Association of Governments Regional Transportation Impact Fund.
MCAG is holding $1.7 million of Los Banos RTIF contributions collected before I became mayor. Despite being “‘guaranteed” repeatedly that the Los Banos bypass was MCAG’s “No. 1 priority in Merced County,” our contributions were re-programmed at least three times and were spent on other projects on the east side of the county.
In August, I conducted an extremely well-controlled survey of Los Banos voters. The survey focused primarily on tax, budget and spending issues. Several very significant responses came back concerning taxes. The following three questions and responses are telling:
▪ Should taxes raised in Los Banos be kept in Los Banos to fix local problems first? Yes, 93 percent.
▪ Would you support (a sales tax measure) if there were written guarantees that Los Banos taxpayers will get back the money we put in? Yes, 65 percent.
▪ Would you support (a sales tax measure) if there were no ironclad guarantees that we will get back the money we put in? Yes, 8 percent.
You can see where support drops from 65 percent to a mere 8 percent when there are no guarantees that the people of Los Banos will benefit. Also, at a solid 93 percent, there is no doubt that our citizens want to keep their money at home to fix local problems.
I have read and re-read the language of Measure V, and I can assure you there are no guarantees of specific road or highway projects in Los Banos or anywhere else in Merced County. I’ve repeatedly asked its authors and supporters to show me the guarantees, so that I might have a reason to change my position. I’ve gotten no reply.
We cannot continue to routinely add to our sales tax burden; it’s not sustainable and it’s not fair.
Of all the taxing mechanisms, sales tax hits retirees and low-income families the hardest.
As a voter, when I look at my ballot I find it impossible to support Measure V. It contains no guarantees the people of Los Banos – or anyone else – will have projects funded equal to the additional sales taxes they generate. 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.
Mike Villalta is mayor of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Merced Sun-Star