On Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors agreed to have staff bring back an Ordinance after receiving polling data on a potential 0.5% sales tax increase measure that would be on the November 2020 ballot aimed at raising $81 million annually for the county.
The vote was 4-1 with Candace Andersen dissenting.
The sales tax revenue would help fund community health centers; provide timely fire and emergency response; support crucial safety-net services; invest in early childhood services; protect vulnerable populations; and for other essential County service.
According to the polling (see power point), a telephone survey and online survey of 666 Contra Costa County likely voters occurred between June 22-29. The poll has a margin of error of 4.0%.
- 2-in-5 voters say county is headed in the right direction (43%) while 25% said it was on the wrong track while 31% didn’t know.
- 3/4 are concerns about the pandemics impact on the economy
Draft Ballot Language Tested
“To keep Contra Costa’s regional hospital open and staffed; fund community health centers; provide timely fire and emergency response; support crucial safety-net services; invest in early childhood services; protect vulnerable populations; and for other essential County services, shall the Contra Costa County measure levying a ½ cent sales tax, exempting food sales, providing an estimated $81,000,000 annually for (HALF SAMPLE: 35 ) (HALF SAMPLE: 20) years that the State cannot take, requiring fiscal accountability, with funds benefiting County residents, be adopted?”
- Majority support a 20-year sunset at 66% in favor versus 59% on 35 years.
- Nearly have say the presence of other measures does not make a difference while one in three are less likely to vote “yes”.
- Half of supporters say that the presence of other measures will make no difference in their vote; one-quarter say it could make them less likely to vote “yes.”
- Maintaining emergency preparedness and response, preventing abuse and providing senior services are top priorities.
- Expanding access to mental health care, increasing after school programs and funding the hospital are strongly supported by voters.
- A number of other services –ranging from Sheriff’s accountability to job training and substance abuse programs –are all supported by voters as well.
According to the polling firm FM3, here were there conclusions
- The proposed Contra Costa County general purpose sales tax is well-positioned for the November ballot at this point in time.
- Support for the measure cuts across many major demographic groups, including every Supervisorial District.
- Voters offer slightly more support for a 20-year sunset than for a 35-year sunset
- The most strongly-supported elements of the measure are preventing child abuse, maintaining 911 emergency response services, firefighting and emergency response preparedness, expanding access to mental health care and increasing accountability in the Sheriff’s Department
- At the same time, every spending area tested received widespread support.
- Support for the measure is responsive to messaging, peaking at 70% for the 20-year sunset after positive messages and 69% for the 35-year sunset.
- Messages focused on emergency response and youth are extremely compelling.
- Criticisms over affordability and high taxes are less convincing individually, but bring overall support down to 61%
- As strong as initial support for the measure is, it is a snap shot of this moment in time; it will still require robust public education and engagement given the changing economic, political, and public health context
Supervisor John Gioia stated this had been a long road and was grateful for all the work that went into this while noting they are the only urban county in the Bay Area that does not have a local sales tax that goes for county services. He explained that through COVID-19 they saw the need of emergency response.
“I feel optimistic that through the coalition that has been put together I feel like we have as good as chance of Any to pass this measure,” said Gioia. “The polling results this are much better than on the transportation sales tax measure in terms of need for approval.”
Gioia suggested they go with the 20-year sunset and they would be starting this campaign in a good position compared to transportation.
The Board of Supervisors also had concerns about the State Legislator taking action on Senate Bill 1349. Staff noted that if there is no action taken by the state, the Board has a two-week period up until August 24 to rescind the sales tax ballot so they would not incur printing costs.
Supervisor Karen Mitchoff stated she was looking for language that would protect the county from spending money if the state legislator doesn’t act.
“I am not wiling to commit any dollars… but its also a 50-50 situation, so I would want a guarantee that if there is no action by August 23, by either the legislator or Governor, that we have a fail safe to pull out,” stated Mitchoff.
Staff said the contingency would say the measure would not be effective if the bill was not approved by the legislator by August 24.
“I am not going to vote to put money out unless this was signed, sealed, and delivered before we have to expend dollars to go to printing,” stated Mitchoff who explained she was surprised by the polling results and the reason they took a second pull was because the first one was taken before COVID-19 and this was taken during.
Supervisor Federal Glover said they do anticipate action by the State before the deadline and would support it calling it necessary.
“I am willing to roll the dice on this because I think its going to happen,” stated Glover saying he has only received positive feedback from the community on this measure. “There is a point in going through COVID-19 that people are more understanding of our needs in greater level of service in healthcare and other areas.”
Glover also noted he was encouraged by the polling results.
Supervisor Diane Burgis this would not kick in until April and was optimistic that this is when things will be opening up and less of an impact on people.
“People in the District that I live in, our communities don’t depend on sales tax because there is not a lot of retail and other opportunities and put money into sales tax. I see this as an opportunity for East County to benefit from some of the spending they do in other communities,” explained Burgis.
Supervisor Candace Andersen expressed her concerns of moving forward with a sales tax in the middle of a pandemic and there are families with household incomes fading.
“Right now, families are in crisis and a sales tax is the most regressive form of taxation for those who can least afford it,” stated Andersen who said the timing of this was really “off” and would not support it based on concerns where they were at economically.
Supervisor Gioia shot back saying a half-cents sales tax could cost people an extra cost of $25-to-$60 per year according to LA County.
“It’s important to understand that because there is this view that its going to cost people thousands of dollars or hundreds of dollars,” said Gioia who said the burden could be more if someone is buying a car.
The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 with Andersen being the dissenting vote to direct staff to prepare a sales tax ordinance and resolution calling for election, including but not limited to, potential sales tax rate and duration.
|Sales Tax Polling PowerPoint Presentation|
|Sales Tax Polling Results|
|Potential Sales Tax Ad Hoc Working Group – Final Needs Assessment|