Board Acts to Get Another Jail Tax Measure on Ballot

With little debate, the County Board of Supervisors took the first step Tuesday toward asking voters to approve another half-cent sales tax increase for construction and operation of courts and jails.

The supervisors voted unanimously to seek state legislation that would allow them to place the issue before voters on the November ballot.

The vote came nearly three months after the California Supreme Court struck down the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1988, ruling that the levy required ratification by two-thirds of the electorate. Only 50.6% of the voters approved Proposition A, which would have raised $1.6 billion for the county's crowded jails and dilapidated courthouses.

The tax has since been repealed, but a lower court has not yet ruled on the disposition of $340 million collected before the Supreme Court ruling.

A new tax would raise an estimated $150 million annually for expansion and operation of the county's jails. But a two-thirds majority vote will be very difficult to attain.

County officials have not yet crafted the terms of the measure, and Tuesday's vote does not commit them to moving forward with the plan. State authorization for the ballot proposition is needed because legislation allowing the 1988 ballot measure is still on the books.

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