The Board of Directors of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation recently evaluated two L.A. County ballot measures that impose new taxes: Measure M, which adds a half-cent to the current sales tax for transportation improvements, and Measure A, which increases property taxes for park improvements.
The discussion of each couldn’t have been more different.
First off, let me say that the SCVEDC Board of Directors is an amazing group of business and civic leaders who are committed to the future economic vitality of the SCV. These dedicated individuals give their time, talent and treasure to support that goal.
But their agreement on the importance of economic development doesn’t mean they agree on all things, and certainly not on proposals for new taxes, and this reality showed itself during the debate on Measure M.
You can probably see the different perspectives on Measure M in the opinion pages of this paper – Supervisor Antonovich supports the measure, yet The Signal Editorial Board chose to oppose it.
After a lengthy debate, the SCVEDC board voted to support Measure M. Let me explain a few of the key reasons why:
1) Transportation connectivity on I-5 is critical for our businesses and our residents. Most of the companies in our business parks do business with companies all over the world. They transport materials in and finished products out.
They need access to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and to the rest of the country. All of this access converges on Newhall Pass. Without a solution to alleviate traffic on I-5, our economic development prospects dim.
2) The SCV will receive more than its money’s worth in benefits. Financial analyses of the measure predict that 94 percent of the sales tax generated from the SCV will be spent on projects directly affecting the SCV.
Creation of the I-5 HOV lane is the most significant project, but dollars will also help improve local roads.
Since about half of workers leave the SCV for jobs elsewhere in L.A. County, tax dollars spent on projects in other parts of the County will also benefit SCV residents.
3) SCV’s priority project, I-5 improvement, is at the top of the list. The I-5 HOV lanes finish a decade-long effort to expand capacity over Newhall Pass. The project is currently under design and if Measure M passes, construction will begin as soon as that design work is complete in 2019.
Through a long, inclusive process, Metro respected the priorities and needs of sub-regions in the county and designed a project list accordingly.
4) The measure is subject to stiff accountability. There is an oversight committee and annual audits that will be made public. Plus the measure requires that the funds be used for transportation projects, so no siphoning-off of dollars for other uses.
Those concerned about the measure were most worried that the promises made in the measure to finish the I-5 project would be unfulfilled, a concern similar to that expressed by the Signal Editorial Board.
To alleviate these concerns, SCVEDC secured a personalized letter from Metro CEO Phil Washington assuring us that, should Measure M pass, the project would be fully funded without toll lanes.
This letter, addressed to me, specifically states that the project “is scheduled to commence construction in 2019. If Measure M passes, the construction project will be fully funded.”
I ask you to vote Yes on Measure M.
The conversation by the SCVEDC board on Measure A had a different tone entirely. Measure A was hastily put on the ballot following the Independence Day holiday.
This measure would add a 1.5-cent-per-square-foot parcel tax on all property in the county. The owner of a 2,000-square-foot home would see a tax increase of $30 a year, which will adjust upward each year with the cost of living.
The money will be spent based on a needs assessment of which areas need the most park improvements.
It’s not surprising that the Santa Clarita Valley, which has made creating parks a significant part of its development plan, is not a priority for funding. The tax will burden SCV residents and businesses without providing much value to our region.
The SCVEDC board conversation on this proposal was relatively straightforward: this measure is not fair in its assessment of tax or its spending plan.
I ask you to vote No on Measure A.
Holly Schroeder is president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation.