Martinez, CA— Even before COVID-19, county services including fire districts, Contra Costa’s regional hospital, and safety net services have been severely underfunded. As of July 11th, over eight (8) percent of county COVID-19 tests returned positive. At the same time Contra Costa’s regional hospital faces a $70 million shortfall, and community health facilities are struggling to remain open under the strain of operational costs.
Critical budgetary constraints forced East Contra Costa Fire District to change its policy from July 1 to send firefighters inside a burning building only if human life is at risk. The July 4th weekend saw over 97 fires.
“In the last month, we’ve witnessed a spike in COVID-19 cases, the active start to our fire season, the continued need for food, income and housing security, and the urgency for reliable early childhood programming for parents as they return to work,” said Mariana Moore, Director of Ensuring Opportunity, and the co-Chair of the Potential Sales Tax Measure Ad Hoc Committee Working Group. “More than ever, county residents need a safeguard to ensure that essential services remain available and accessible during worldwide and personal crises.”
Tuesday, County Supervisors considered a resolution to include a sales tax measure in November that would do just that. The 20-year ½ cent sales tax would add revenue to the county’s general fund for essential services, like firefighting, in Contra Costa County.
Passing with a 4-1 vote, Supervisors approved the board ordinance introducing the county-wide sales tax, though requiring a special meeting of the board on August 21st. Currently the sales tax is contingent on the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1349 to allow an increase to the county’s sales tax cap. The August 21 meeting would allow a 3-2 vote to remove the ordinance from printing in the ballot should SB 1349 not pass in a legislature floor vote by that time.
“After working with local labor, hospital and community-based organizations to assess county needs earlier in the year, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity for voters to set a course to protect these critical county services in November’s election,” Joshua Anijar stated, Executive Director of Contra Costa Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and co-Chair of the Potential Sales Tax Measure Ad Hoc Committee Working Group.
The second and final resolution to place the Healthy and Safe Contra Costa sales tax measure on the ballot will be voted on at the August 4th Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting.