Transportation Poll: Placer County sales-tax hike vote would fall short

Two-thirds vote needed and support still not there
By: Gus Thomson of the Auburn Journal
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The Takeaway

- Voters more concerned about government waste

- Placer County Transportation Planning Agency still relatively unknown

- Support for ½ cent sales tax same as 2014 – 61 percent

Source: Fairbanks Maslin


Placer County voters can’t drive 66.66.

That’s the two-thirds vote the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency would need to capture at the ballot box to put it over the top in a long-sought quest for a ½-cent sales tax increase to fund road and rail improvements over the next 30 years.

Kurt Below of Fairbanks Maslin consultants presented the findings Wednesday to the agency board. They show that support for a ½ cent sales tax remains at a similar level as tested in 2014 – 61 percent ‘yes.’

The results of the poll follows 600 telephone interviews with likely November 2016 voters in Placer County between May 17 and 20. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Below said that voters remain more concerned about government waste and tax burdens than traffic congestion and local road conditions. That dynamic is particularly pronounced in the more rural District 5, which takes in Auburn, he said.

The prospective voters who did favor a sales-tax hike wanted to see funds spent on projects that leverage federal and state matching funds and promote student safety, Below said.

Road and street maintenance was down the list of issues voters thought the county should prioritize. No. 1 was clean water and water supply – which jumped in resonance from 26 percent to 34 percent from last year’s poll to this year’s. Seven percent of voters thought traffic was the most serious issue. Road maintenance was also at the 7 percent level of concern. Public transportation, buses and rail were at 8 percent, collectively.

The agency board, which includes representatives from cities and the county, voted without comment to back an expenditure plan as part of a sales-tax bid highlighting significant funding to improve the Interstate 80-Highway 65 interchange and a third of the funds spread out to local jurisdictions for road rehabilitation and maintenance.

Celia McAdam, agency executive director, said the poll indicated the agency needs to have “a larger conversation with the public” on who it is and what the current transportation challenges are if it moves forward on a 2016 vote.

 “This is the starting point as we talk to the public and get more general exposure,” McAdam said.