Measure C Transportation Tax Likely to Punt to 2026 Ballot
A study into the public’s reaction to Measure C offers insight into the direction Fresno County could want to go to renew the transportation tax. And the window to get it on the November 2024 ballot appears to be closing fast.
Younger Population and Democrats Voted in Favor of Measure C
The Fresno County Transportation Authority, which oversees Measure C projects, contracted with Los Angeles-based FM3 Research to conduct a week-long survey in January through telephone, emails, and texts.
Board and community members met at Clovis City Council chambers on Wednesday to discuss the survey results and a future path for Measure C renewal.
There were 654 people surveyed in Fresno County, with 44% from the city of Fresno, 20% from Clovis, and 21% from unincorporated areas.
Here are some highlights of voter perception of Measure C, which voters failed to renew on the November 2022 ballot:
— 76% of liberals voted “yes” on Measure C with 20% voting “no” (29% of sample)
— 63% of moderates voted “yes” with 30% voting “no” (29% of sample)
— 43% of conservatives voted “yes” with 48% voting “no” (35% of sample)
Overall, the measure received 58.2%, well short of the needed two-thirds affirmation. The half-cent tax would have raised $6.8 billion over 30 years starting in 2027.
Related Story: Clovis Councilmember Blasts Road Tax Opponents as Measure Heads Toward Ballot
People Want Roads Fixed
Of those surveyed, 80% said there was at least some need for money to go toward transportation infrastructure, with 86% saying it should fund road repairs.
Steve Brandau is a Fresno County supervisor and a board member for Measure C representing urban communities that included Republicans opposed to the renewal. The big takeaway for Brandua was that people struggled with seeing results from their Measure C tax dollars.
“What the survey screams on the opening pages is people don’t care about a bunch of the side issues. They want their roads fixed,” Brandau said.
In the leadup to last year’s vote, community groups opposed the renewal because they wanted more investment in public transit, bike lanes, and lowering carbon emissions in the 2022 campaign.
Brandau pointed out that according to the survey, efforts to lower carbon emissions ranked lower on people’s priorities.
In the current language of Measure C, money from the tax cannot go toward complete street repair, Brandau said. Money can go toward repaving but it cannot go toward sidewalks, gutters, curbs, and street lights.
Brandau felt people would be willing to pay for those things. Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias agreed, saying the general public understands that roads are in bad shape.
“(Arias) and I are going to be on the same page and that’s rare,” said Brandau.
Reasons Measure C Failed
Nearly 82% of respondents said promises were broken about the results Measure C would bring.
Widening the Shaw and Highway 99 intersections has been in talks for nearly 40 years and no results have been seen, Arias said.
In 2022, Arias put $50,000 of his own campaign money toward opposing Measure C. He said he felt it was flawed, focusing too much on highways and highway interchanges at the expense of roads.
The survey also revealed that nearly 70% of people were incorrect as to whether Measure C passed in 2022. Sixteen percent said the Measure had passed while 55% were uncertain about the results.
What Parlier Mayor Alma Beltran wanted to see was how much respondents knew about Measure C. She said she had heard many people say it was a new tax.
But that question wasn’t addressed in the survey. Beltran also wanted to see more signage telling people that a particular project was funded by Measure C. The problem for Measure C is that the tax funds very few projects on its own, said executive director of Fresno County Transit Authority Mike Leonardo. Most projects also include matching funds.
Survey Too Limited in Scope for Some
While the survey reinforced a lot of beliefs for board members, there were limitations.
Member-at-large Sarah Harris said a sampling of 654 people was too few and missing key information. The survey lacked data on geographical information broken down to how different neighborhoods felt Measure C money should be spent. Harris also wanted to know how a person got around town or if they were employed.
Survey results showed issues such as increased funding for public transit or safer bike lanes receiving 29% to 32% support. That’s not enough to make a decision, Harris said
The FCTA commissioned the study with limited resources from leftover funds, said Leonardo. Based on the information provided, said Leonardo, “this is not enough to craft a new measure.”
Measure C Likely to Return to the Ballot in 2026
With only a few months left to get a rewritten, refocused, and strategized Measure C campaign off the ground, Leonardo said it would be a tall order to get the renewal on the 2024 ballot.
Not having an appearance until November 2026 means Measure C would only have one chance before it expires in 2027.
After that, the public may perceive it as a new tax, Leonardo said.
Part of the difficulty for board members is getting a measure all of Fresno County can get behind.
Arias wanted to see more local control of projects, but that would require reworking language in Measure C. Having it appear on the 2024 ballot could also mean competing against a second attempt to pass the Measure E sales tax benefitting Fresno State, Arias said. The councilman added that he thinks education would win over roads.
But even before deciding on a date, Leonardo said there was a more fundamental question to ask.
“Is there a measure that the entire county — or two-thirds of them — would support?” Leonardo said.
Fresno County Supervisor and Board Chair Buddy Mendes said having Brandau and Arias agree on a set of principles — such as road repair — would be a big step forward.