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This post originally appeared in the March 6 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.
Assemblywoman Marie Waldron has reintroduced her bill to scale back the ability of big cities to dominate decision-making at the San Diego Association of Governments.
The bill, AB 3248, is identical to last year’s AB 1398 and would require two-thirds of San Diego County voters to approve any changes to spending in TransNet, SANDAG’s 2004 voter-approved sales tax for regional transportation projects.
TransNet is in the grips of a financial crisis, with revenues coming in far below expectations and project costs far exceeding them. Nearly four years after Voice of San Diego first revealed the crisis, elected officials on SANDAG’s board now acknowledge that it won’t be possible to build everything voters were promised when they approved the initial ballot measure.
But the debate over how to spend the remaining funds has created a schism on the board, with officials who represent rural areas insisting continued commitment to freeway projects and the agency’s leadership and urban elected officials pushing instead for a shift to transit projects that can meet the region’s state-mandated emissions reductions.
“Revenues from the half-cent sales tax are coming in way under expectations and not all projects will be completed by 2048,” said Alex Khan, Waldron’s legislative director. “Priorities may need to be shifted. However, these shortfalls should not come at the disproportionate expense of highway and road projects anticipated and paid for by rural San Diego.”
Waldron’s bill could have a tough road ahead. Urban leaders gained the upper hand at SANDAG thanks to AB 805, passed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez in 2017 in response to the agency’s funding crisis and public misrepresentations around it. Waldron, a Republican, would not only need to get the bill through the Assembly’s Democratic supermajority, but also through Gonzalez’s powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee.
AB 3248 is eligible for committee votes on March 23.