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May 31, 2023

COG board supports sales tax for roads on ballot

The wheels are in motion for a 1 percent sales tax on the November ballot to fix roads in San Benito County.

The Council of San Benito County Governments board Thursday supported placing a 1 percent sales tax question on the Nov. 6 ballot to fund transportation projects, COG Executive Director Mary Gilbert confirmed.

The proposed 1 percent sales tax would raise $485 million for transportation projects over the next 30 years, according to a staff report. The measure would need two-third support to gain approval. This tax push comes more than two years after voters rejected Measure P, a half-cent sales tax that gained 59.77 percent of the vote while needing a two-thirds majority.

The deadline to officially place the 2018 measure on the ballot is Aug. 10. The matter will go to the county board next asking for its support, but that part is basically a formality.

The COG board is made up of representatives from San Benito County and the cities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista. The board voted 4-0 on the tax, with Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez absent, Gilbert confirmed.

The tax, if approved by two-thirds of county voters, would apply in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of San Benito County. The funds would go toward such projects as repairing potholes, improving local roads, widening Highway 25, improving pedestrian and bicycle safety, providing mobility services for seniors and others, and to qualify for state and federal matching funds.

A report on transportation needs in the county notes how this region has some of the worst road conditions in the state, and how traffic on Highway 25 has more than doubled since the mid-1990s.

The money would be restricted to those specific uses as opposed to allocation in a general discretionary fund, while a San Benito County Regional Transportation Plan has identified $1.8 billion in projects as a shared responsibility among federal, state, regional and local funding sources.

-Kollin Kosmicki