In September 2021 Ventura County Transportation Commission, the regional transportation planning agency, began the process of seeking community input “to help develop the Comprehensive Transportation Plan for transportation in Ventura County over the next 30 years.”
In October 2021 a “citizens group” surprised Ventura County Transportation Commission by asking that they ignore the Comprehensive Transportation Plan process and instead approve an obsolete version of a $3.3 billion spending plan voters had rejected back in 2016.
The hurry by the “citizens group” to approve the obsolete spending plan was intended to speed up the signature gathering required to place a one-half percent special purpose sales tax initiative on the November 2022 ballot.
The tax would cost Ventura County taxpayers $70 million per year and would remain in effect forever.
One of the commissioners, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, said, it’s “shortsighted to raise sales taxes to add more freeway lanes” as recommended by the citizens group.
The California Constitution prohibits local governments from imposing a special tax without two-thirds voter approval. So, the citizens group is attempting to exploit a recent court decision that said a simple majority is all that is needed to pass multibillion dollar special purpose spending initiatives because “citizens have the constitutional right to tax themselves”.
Ventura County Taxpayers Association (VCTA) and Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association asserts that under Proposition 13 and 281 this special purpose tax requires a two-thirds voter approval.
David Grau, President of VCTA, asked the commissioners at the October meeting to accept the “citizens group” report and take no action now or in the future.
VCTA read a statement from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association into the record. We firmly hold, “that any special tax, whether proposed through an initiative petition or the local governing body, requires two-thirds voter approval under (California) Propositions 13 and 218.”
Furthermore, “Ventura County is in the Second District Court of Appeal where there is no binding decision on this issue in any general or specific case. Thus, litigation can be expected if a voter initiative special tax receives more than a simple majority but less than two-thirds voter approval.”
Importantly “for the citizens group to proceed with gathering signatures to place the tax measure on the November 2022 ballot, it’s required to have an expenditure plan that has been approved by the commission” said Mark Watkins, the commission’s interim executive director.
The Ventura County Transportation Commission, on a 12-1 vote, decided not to approve the “citizens group” plan and instead agreed to file the presentation, as Ventura County Taxpayers Association had recommended.
If the “citizens group” decides they want to move forward with the $70 million annual sales tax voter initiative, they will do so with a spending plan the local government agency called “shortsighted” along with the real possibility of litigation for not complying with the requirements of prop 13 and 218.
We thank Ventura County Transportation Commissioners for voting to reject the outdated recommendations of a citizen’s special interest group, while continuing the thoughtful work of updating the Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the benefit all of Ventura County.
Ventura County Taxpayers Association
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