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Government and Politics

Argument against San Luis Obispo’s Measure G


ALSO: Hear the argument for Measure G

On November 4, 2014, voters in the City of San Luis Obispo will decide whether they want to extend a half-cent sales tax for another 8 years. This "general purpose" tax was originally passed in 2006 as Measure Y. This year’s version is known as Measure G, and does come with some changes.

RANDOL WHITE: Joining us to explain the argument against this extension is Keith Gurnee, one of the three co-authors of the official Argument Against Measure G you’ll find in the voter guide. One of your main arguments against Measure G is that the money collected can be spent on anything because it ends up in the general fund. The Yes on G argument is that Measure Y money has been tracked and spent on what was promised, and Measure G will have an addition layer of accountability via a Citizens Oversight Committee. Why don’t you see this as a good option?

KEITH GURNEE: Well, I think we have to go back to the origins of how Measure Y was put on the ballot. The city spent thousands of dollars, tax payer dollars, on polls. And the polling recommendations came back that there was no chance it was going to pass unless they promised it as a temporary tax measure—the last eight years, and is due to expire in March of 2015. Basically what happened is, the city never had any intention of letting this money go once it got hooked on the revenue, so now we’re facing another eight year term of this tax, at a time when the city has no intention of letting that lapse. So I think the city is being fundamentally dishonest about the need for revenue and what they’re spending it on.

RANDOL WHITE: Your argument on those lines says the salaries rose under Measure Y years by roughly the same amount as the tax collected, making it appear as though city leaders were handing out raises. The ‘Yes on G’ sign says much of that salary figure was in the form of new jobs to implement the goals of the measure. How does that conform with what you know?

KEITH GURNEE: Well, again, I think what the money has gone toward is the expansion of the bureaucracy and additional money for payrolls. And again, that reflects some of the basic dishonesty of the city in saying where these revenues are going. It’s unfortunate that it hasn’t gone to the projects that it was originally intended to go, I originally voted for Measure Y, but I am not going to be voting for Measure G, because I feel like I’ve been fooled.

RANDOL WHITE: Now, if Measure G does pass, the tax rate will be, or remain, in line with every other city in the county except Atascadero, but that could be the case too based on whether their tax measure passes. Why do you feel this half cent tax goes too far if SLO is in-line with neighboring communities?

KEITH GURNEE: Why do we have to be like the neighboring communities? If Measure Y, tax measure goes dormant in 2015, our sales tax rate will go from eight percent to seven and a half percent. Why isn’t it a good thing that our sales tax would be seven and a half percent and attract the city and the incorporated community with the lowest tax rate in all the region? And promote more economic activity to raise additional revenue, more activity will raise revenue for city coffers, to do what they can. The principle of it, I guess is, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the old Milton Freidman quote, “There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary government program.” This is one of those temporary government programs. And I think the city needs to learn how to live within its means like the rest of us have to do.

RANDOL WHITE: Keith Gurnee, one of the three co-authors of the official “Argument Against Measure G” that you’ll find in your voter guide. Thank you with being with us today, Keith.

KEITH GURNEE: Thank you, and I just ask people, don’t be fooled again—vote No on G.

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