Photo by Alexander Nguyen

A lot of work is ahead for the San Diego Association of Governments in the event it champions a proposed countywide half-cent sales tax increase that would fund regional infrastructure projects, agency Chairman Ron Roberts said Friday.

His remarks came after SANDAG’s Board of Directors was presented with results of a survey on a prospective ballot measure that might go before area voters in the November general election.

About 68 percent of about 1,200 respondents questioned between March 28 and April 3 were inclined to vote for the measure when read the proposed ballot summary — above the two-thirds that would be necessary for passage of a tax hike.

However, when the respondents were given arguments for and against the plan, support dropped to 62 percent, below the threshold.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a lot of support,” said Roberts, a county supervisor.

Backing for the proposed ballot measure was higher in the most recent survey, compared to polls taken in April last year and again last November.

The SANDAG directors — consisting of elected officials from the region’s 18 cities, county supervisors and leaders of other agencies — also heard from opponents of the measure.

Several representatives of environmental groups and organized labor said they would actively campaign against the plan because they believe proposed road and freeway enhancements would worsen climate change.

The plan currently calls for 14 percent of the revenue from the tax hike to go to freeway projects, while another 26 percent would pay for local road repair. The remainder would be spent on public transit, management of open space and complying with state water quality mandates.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said the proposed ballot language “raises expectations” with promises of “repairing streets and filling potholes in every community.”

It would be hard for SANDAG to “deliver on the promise,” especially when voters are fed up with conditions of area roadways, she said.

San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond said voters could be misled by ballot language that specifies various freeway projects, when only 14 percent of revenue will go to such work.

According to the survey results, one-third of respondents who heard the measure’s pro and con arguments said they would probably or definitely vote “no.”

The arguments in favor of the ballot measure that were most convincing, according to the survey, were plans to add lanes to state Route 94 into downtown, protect open space, improve water quality, and that the funds would remain local.

The least convincing ideas were providing more frequent bus and trolley service, changing road grades to separate road and rail traffic and creating aerial tramways.

The survey assumed a high-turnout election in November of 80 percent.

The SANDAG board will go over an expenditure plan and provisions of the measure at a meeting on April 22. The directors will vote on whether to proceed with the ballot measure at a special meeting one week later.

–City News Service

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