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Transnet Tax Extension is anti-progress

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
September 2, 2004


"The crime of taxation is not in the taking of it, it's in the way it's spent." — Will Rogers

They're back.

And they are coming for your wallet.

In 1987, San Diego region voters approved the half-cent sales tax Transnet program in order to fund transportation projects throughout the region. This 20-year, $3.3 billion transportation program expires in 2008. On November 2nd, San Diego County voters will be faced with the decision of taxing themselves for another 40 years in the name of traffic planning.

At the time residents were fed up with the lack of transportation planning that was fueling the Los Angelesation of San Diego County as infrastructure was failing to keep pace with population increase. Voters were grasping at straws when they agreed to tax themselves to remedy the situation. Proponents of TransNet promised the funds generated by the sales tax would ease traffic congestion. It didn't, and now they are back for more.

Proposing this bureaucratic boondoggle, the professional planners at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) are asking voters ignore the fact the first $3.3 billion generated by this tax has resulted in regional gridlock and increased commute times. Under the stewardship of SANDAG planners, traffic in San Diego County has reached nightmare proportion, due to extreme population pressures and an adherence to the failed paradigm of suburban sprawl.

An extension of the Transnet sales tax would supposedly generate $14 billion to "improve" local roads and highways. Oh, and yes, they mention mass transit, but the economics of the ordinance itself does absolutely nothing to promote comprehensive ecological sustainability of the region. In fact there are a few implied promises being made, none of which that are actually codified with the extension plan.

Opposing Proposition A and the TransNet tax extension environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, San Diego Bay Keeper, Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Audubon, Save our Forest and Ranchland, and the Center for Biological Diversity can relate firsthand how the shortsighted planning endorsed by those proposing the tax extension is impacting future sustainability. They understand more of a bad thing is never good.

Organizations promoting future urban sustainability, such as Taxpayers for Better Transportation, Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, The North County Board of Realtors oppose the tax extension because the understand more must be done to promote mass transit and a better plan is needed. Unlike the stunted brain trusted at SANDAG, settling for less than future focused planning is not an option for them.

Road construction is not keeping pace with population growth, nor will it. The era of the automobile is coming to a close; any tax reaching 40 years in the future should center on that understanding. Sitting in traffic is now an iconic image associated with San Diego County; it's what we do. We have the professional planners of SANDAG to thank for this.

Mass Transit is our future. It's time we caught up.

Validating my opposition to this taxation scheme is the bomb buried on page 40 of the ordinance:

4) In no case will non-residential development be subject to a development impact fee to meet the requirements of section 9 of the TransNet ordinance.

Section 9 of the TransNet ordinance codifies a $2,000, new development exaction, on all "newly constructed residential housing units…to ensure future development contributes its proportional share of the funding needed to pay for the Regional Arterial System and related regional transportation facilities improvements."

In other words? Developers of commercial and industrial space don't have to contribute their proportional share of the funding needed to maintain the Regional Arterial System, and residential developers are assessed a mere $2,000 per residential unit. A fee easily passed on to the consumer. Yes ladies and Gentlemen, the San Diego Association of Governments is asking voters to tax themselves to pay for growth while exempting the developers responsible for it.

It is almost criminal.

To pass, this $14 billion tax increase will require a two-thirds voter approval. Which seems rather unlikely, as the first 20 years have produced only negative results. Considering the Transnet tax extension amounts to throwing good money after bad, I will be voting against the tax extension.

I will be voting No on Proposition A.

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