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County Polls for Opinions on New Measure D Plan

600 random households will have early say on revamped proposal to extend half-cent sales tax.

Six hundred random households in Santa Barbara County will get a phone call soon, maybe even this evening. The callers? Representatives of the Santa Barbara County Aassociation of Governments, phoning to get opinions on a revamped Measure D renewal.

The renewal calls for a continuation of the half-cent sales tax, this time extending over 30 years and estimated to generate $1.05 billion for the county. The current Measure D expires in 2010.

The biggest difference between this Measure D renewal and the failed proposal from 2006 is that the tax remains at a half-cent, SBCAG spokesman Gregg Hart said. The renewal that was voted down in 2006 included another quarter-cent sales tax to cover transportation projects in both the North and South counties. While the overall tax increase would have meant more money for transportation improvements, flaws that voters saw in the distribution of the money to the several jurisdictions participating in the program led to lack of support at the polls.

“The other big issue that has changes is that the Highway 101 is now elevated to the highest priority of all the projects countywide,” Hart said. “It’s the only money that’s taken from both the North County and the South County.”

Widening of Highway 101 has long been a goal of Measure D, and is a sticking point for many of the voters considering the measure. At an estimated $140 million, 101 widening has become this measure’s flagship project.

One other major element in this renewal plan is that the money is split evenly between the South Coast and the North County, with each receiving approximately $455 million over the life of the measure. The majority of the projects proposed for the North County are infrastructure improvements, while the South County is anticipated to pursue more alternative transportation projects.

“The decisions for the projects in the north and in the south are made entirely by people who live in those communities,” said Hart, noting the months of work and public outreach by South Coast and North County planning committees. While the last Measure D renewal effort allocated a fair share of funds to cities at both ends of the county, Hart said, the money was not as clearly separated.

“There’s a whole different approach this time, which I think makes it a lot cleaner for people to understand,” he said.

The results of the upcoming polls will be analyzed, Hart said, and revisions to the renewal plan will be made if necessary. The plan will be brought out again in the next few weeks for consideration by participating jurisdictions. A majority of the city councils representing a majority of the voters in the county, as well as the Board of Supervisors must approve the plan first before it goes back to voters on the November ballot.

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