The Sacramento County Transportation Maintenance, Safety, and Congestion Relief Act of 2022—Retail Transactions and Use Tax (Measure 2022) by the Committee for a Better Sacramento came before the Sacramento Transportation Authority (SacTA) last week, 2022-07-27.
Agenda item 6 was to have the authority accept responsibility for implementing the measure if it passes in November. This item did not generate much discussion, and passed unanimously. I will note that the measure sets up a gotcha that will be very difficult for the authority to work through – it basically says that if a project sponsor claims that a project meets air quality criteria, they do not have to prove that it does, and may proceed to spend tax funds on it, no matter what anyone else says. Not only will this likely make it impossible for the SACOG region to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 19% set by the state, but likely make it imperative that other projects both in Sacramento county and the other five counties in the SACOG region make up for (mitigate) the GHGs generated by the project. This is largely about the Capital Southeast Connector, but applies to every capacity expansion project in the measure.
Agenda item 7 (presentation), to direct the SacTA Executive Director to negotiate an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with SACOG that would set us criteria for having SACOG review the GHG impact of the entire measure, using SacTA funds (presumably Measure A funds, since tax collection would not start until January 1 if the measure passes). A review would also be done by a third party, not specified in the MOU, but likely a consultant more amenable to discounting the GHG contribution of roadway expansion projects. SacTA or the third party may challenge the SACOG analysis, but the MOU doesn’t make clear what happens then. It is worth noting the several SACOG board members, particularly David Sander of Rancho Cordova, who is also, conveniently, on the board of the Capital Southeast Connector JPA, said the the SACOG analysis of the impact of the connector on GHG and the likely failure to meet the target, was so flawed that it should be discarded. Several board members accused SACOG staff of lying. I assume that the new review of the Transportation Expenditure Plan will be challenged in the same way, by the same people. It is likely that the measure, and the MOU, and the signing agencies will end up in court.
There was considerably more discussion on item 7. It passed, but with three no votes and one abstention (of the sixteen votes on the board, some of whom were absent).
The MOU is only between SacTA and SACOG. It does not include the Capital Southeast Connector JPA, nor the tax measure proponents (the greenfield developers), nor the county, nor any of the cities, nor the other five counties. So it is not legally binding on anyone beyond SacTA and SACOG. That means that the connector JPA can do what it wants to do, which is to avoid responsibility for GHG emissions.
There was an earlier promise that there would be ballot language in the pro argument that explained the MOU and what it would accomplish, but it is not clear that this is any longer on the table. The MOU itself is far longer than could be included, so if there is anything there at all, it would be a summary, and would be written by the measure proponents, hardly an unbiased source.
I will repeat that it was the specific intention of the measure proponents to bully SACOG and SacTA into supporting the measure and specifically excepting GHG-inducing roadway capacity expansion projects from air quality review. The intentional removal of the GHG language from the 2020 version of the measure (which was withdrawn before going on the ballot) makes this absolutely clear. The claim by many politicians that the measure proponents think that the MOU clarifies that the intent was not to violate GHG goals is laughable. They intended to bully, and they succeeded.
For more on the measure, see Measure 2022 posts. The use of this name and category is not meant to confuse. A lot of people are referring to this as Measure A, but the measure letters are assigned by county elections after they have qualified, so this is in no sense Measure A at this time. Sacramento County Elections has verified signatures for the measure, but has not assigned a measure letter.