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May 26, 2024
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Sales tax measure to fund transportation infrastructure qualifies for November 2024 ballot

A proposal to raise San Diego County’s sales tax by a half percentage point to fund transportation infrastructure has officially qualified for the November 2024 ballot.

The campaign backing the measure, called “Let’s Go San Diego,” announced Friday it had gathered enough valid signatures to put the issue to voters. The group is a coalition of local environmental groups, labor unions and businesses.

Why it matters

San Diego County has ambitious goals for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from cars and trucks. Meeting those climate goals will require big investments in public transit.

Streets and highways across San Diego County also have billions of dollars in unfunded needs. The cost of maintaining that infrastructure will grow along with the county’s population.

By the numbers

The additional sales tax revenue would be divided into six buckets of money.

  • 50% would go to public transit projects, such as a rail connection to San Diego International Airport and a new rail line connecting the South Bay to Kearny Mesa
  • 27% would go to highway maintenance and safety projects, such as HOV lanes, bridge repairs and fire evacuation routes on State Route 67
  • 7% would go to city governments, proportional to their population, to be spent on local infrastructure such as filling potholes, fixing storm drains and improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure
  • 12% would go to public transit operations, such as increasing bus and trolley frequencies, cleaning transit stops and keeping fares low for seniors, youth, veterans and people with disabilities
  • 2% would go to keeping the county’s rail network in a state of good repair
  • 2% or less would go to administering the funds, including an independent oversight committee tasked with performing annual audits

Looking ahead

The last attempt to raise the sales tax for transportation infrastructure was in 2016. The measure won the support of 57% of voters, but failed to pass because it was a government-sponsored special tax measure and needed a two-thirds majority.

The “Let’s Go San Diego” measure, in contrast, is a citizen’s initiative. That means it needs only a simple majority to pass.

The unions and businesses supporting the measure are likely to spend heavily on mailers and other campaign activities to help ensure its passage. What’s less clear is who will come out in opposition to the measure and how much money they’ll spend campaigning against it.

San Diego County voters have historically been reluctant to raise taxes. But the average San Diego voter has gotten more liberal in recent years, and voters in presidential elections tend to be more progressive than those who vote in midterm or primary elections.

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