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Officials Decline to Rush 2nd Tax Vote : Transportation: Before reviving a $500-million funding measure, a commission wants to examine why voters defeated it Nov. 6.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Ventura County Transportation Commission said Friday it will consider next month whether to resubmit a ballot-measure proposal that would raise the county sales tax a half-cent to pay for $500 million in transportation projects.

Despite a recommendation from its staff that it begin working on another sales tax proposal, the commission said it wanted more time to examine why voters last month overwhelmingly rejected Measure A.

“We’re not coming to a halt,” Transportation Chairwoman Susan Lacey said of the commission’s decision to wait a month before deciding whether to pursue another ballot measure. “We’re just marching forward a little bit slower.”

In a report presented to the commission Friday, Ginger Gherardi, the board’s executive director, recommended that the sales tax measure be revised and that work begin as soon as possible on placing it on the ballot next November. She said the sooner work could begin on drafting a new ballot proposal, the easier it would be to coordinate a campaign to support it.

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In her report, Gherardi outlined several reasons why the sales tax measure was defeated in the Nov. 6 election and how some of those problems might be corrected.

One problem was that transportation officials did not start working on the ballot measure until June, she said. That was because they were waiting to see if voters would approve Proposition 111, which raised gasoline and diesel taxes to help pay for statewide transportation projects.

Another problem was that the language used in the ballot statement did not specify what projects would be funded by the measure.

Gherardi said proponents of the measure were unable to wage a full-blown campaign because of financial problems related to the downturn in the economy. The fact that there were 28 statewide propositions competing for voter-approved funding also did not help their cause.

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“There were problems outside of our control,” such as the Middle East crisis and state budget shortfalls, she said.

The director restated the county’s needs for additional funding for various freeway improvements and other roadway projects. She said the county needs operating funds for commuter rail service that would link Simi Valley and Moorpark with Los Angeles at the end of 1992.

As proposed in the November ballot measure, the half-cent sales tax would enable the county to claim $130 million in state highway money and raise another $500 million over the next 20 years.

Some of the county’s longstanding projects include widening California 126 and the Saticoy Bridge and completion of a connector road between the Simi Valley and Moorpark freeways.

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Gherardi reminded the commission that it should act quickly because the cost of these and other county transportation projects is only going to increase. The cost of the Saticoy Bridge project already has jumped from $3 million to $12 million because of rising real estate prices, California Department of Transportation officials said.

But Commissioners Maggie Erikson and Frank Schillo cautioned colleagues on the panel about being to quick to pursue another sales tax measure.

“If it is important to this county, and I believe it is, that we have good transportation then let’s take some time at this commission to talk about what went wrong” with the initial sales tax measure, Erikson said.

“For this commission to take action that says, ‘Well, the voters voted us down, but we think they were wrong, and so we’re going to put it back on the ballot again’ . . . I’m not ready to say that.”

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Later, Fred Robinson, who headed a citizens committee that campaigned on behalf of the sales tax measure, told the board that his committee is still intact and ready to begin campaigning for another ballot measure.

“We are not going to go away,” Robinson said. “I’ve got warmed up to the fight and we’re ready for another go at this. With your help I know we can make it successful.”


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