New Jails Sales Tax Issue OKd for November Ballot

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian signed into law Wednesday a bill authorizing San Diego County officials to place a sales tax issue to finance jail and courts facilities on the general election ballot in November--or anytime after that.

Under the measure by Assemblyman Bill Bradley (R-San Marcos), the Board of Supervisors can ask voters to approve a half-cent-a-dollar increase in the state sales tax collected in San Diego County to raise most of the $495 million the county says it will take to construct urgently needed new jails and court buildings.

The tax increase, viewed by many as a rival to an expected half-cent sales tax issue for San Diego County transportation improvements, became the center of political tug-of-war here and in San Diego after Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Chula Vista) maneuvered last month to keep it off the June ballot.

County officials wanted to hold the tax election for criminal justice facilities in June instead of November, when it is expected that the San Diego Assn. of Governments will also be asking voters for the tax increase for transportation.


Under the two enabling bills approved by the Legislature, however, either the county or Sandag, which doubles as the regional transportation commission, could back down and hold its tax election at a later date.

Some legislators and local officials say placing both tax issues on the same ballot will doom both to failure. Others say it would be an unfair deception on voters to separate the two.

Court rulings on the provisions of Proposition 13, the 1978 tax-slashing initiative approved by California voters, have given a built-in advantage to the transportation tax issue.

Because Sandag was given taxing authority for the first time last year in a bill by Sen. Wadie P. Deddeh (D-Chula Vista), a majority of voters can approve the sales tax increase for transportation.


But the tax increase for criminal justice facilities can only be approved if two-thirds of the county’s voters favor it.

If both tax increases are approved, it will make the sales tax in San Diego County seven cents on the dollar, the highest in the state.