Yuba County supervisors are appealing a Yuba County Superior Court judge’s ruling that Measure K, approved by rural county voters in 2018, should have been classified as a “special” tax.
The measure passed with a simple majority as a general use tax. As a special use tax, it would have been required to have gained a super majority of two thirds of voters, rather than that simple majority. It passed with 53 percent of the vote – 13 percentage points shy of a super majority.
We sympathize with the county; and we wish that the money being collected through Measure K (and held from spending as the case makes its way through court) could be used to bolster Yuba County emergency and public safety services. Because, really, that’s what everyone who supported Measure K thought it would be used for. No one in Yuba County would have voted to just give county government more tax revenue and just let supervisors spend it however they wanted.
Unfortunately, and regardless of the wording, Measure K was passed to increase the sales tax in unincorporated areas by one cent; with that revenue, we all believed, to be used to bolster public safety in the county. And why not? We were alarmed by violent crime going on, the recent shooting and wounding of a couple of our sheriff’s deputies, the constant dealings with black-market pot growing operations ... and we understood that the county’s revenue wasn’t keeping pace with demands for rural protection.
We understand why the county would appeal the judgment, but we don’t hold out much hope for it. Supporters outside of county government staff (because they’re not allowed to) should remount and start working on cracking the super majority mark on a new ballot initiative.
But a couple things:
– We’re still a little perplexed about why a simple majority of voters is not required to give a government body permission to spend tax proceeds anyway they see fit. That takes an incredible amount of trust – on the part of voters for supervisors, in this case. You’d think that a super majority would be required in cases where supervisors get such wide latitude to spend; rather than for a measure that would bolt down how the revenue is spent. But ... not relevant to this dog fight.
– Regardless of whether the county is right or wrong or the judge’s ruling is overturned or not, we have to say we somewhat resent the tenor of some, local and non-local, who oppose the measure by asserting it was a scam. Supporters weren’t trying to fatten up government; they’re trying to feel safe in their beds at night.
We don’t think the county was manipulating the vote to cheat taxpayers. It seems pretty clear they were trying to improve conditions. Is it a victory, this ruling, for county taxpayers? That may very depend on what neighborhood the taxpayer lives in.
– We also think there are people out there, perhaps amongst the plaintiffs, who are throwing some chaff into the bin by suggesting that the boon now coming to Yuba Water Agency can be used for all sorts of special funding, such as public safety. We’re talking about the millions of dollars now being harvested by YWA from power generation since taking it over from PG&E in 2016, and the assumption that revenue could be used to replace Measure K tax revenues. Why not? Because the legislation that authorizes the county agency to sell and profit from the power generation dictates that the money must be spent in some way related to water... you can stretch that around all you want, but it’s not going to mean a significant increase in public safety funding is going to be available that route.
For supporters of the idea of increasing revenue to public safety programs, good luck on the appeal, but you better start rolling out Plan B for Measure K.