Measure L: A Tax Republicans Favor?


When Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold ran for office in 2015, he opposed Measure X, which would have increased sales taxes to fund police services. Mayor Brandvold does support Measure L, a one half percent sales tax to fund transportation.

A vast majority of the one billion dollars that will be raised over the twenty five year life of the tax increase will go to fund roads. No money will go to public safety. Mayor Brandvold supports a tax that will take money from Modestans and go primarily to build roads outside of Modesto! So, he did not support a tax that kept all money in Modesto but supported a tax that sends money out of Modesto.

Although Mr. Brandvold said that Modesto needs no money, he supports raising taxes. As a Republican, raising taxes is inconsistent with party doctrine. In fact, the tax increase is being pushed mostly by self-proclaimed conservative Republicans.

At face value, Mr. Brandvold’s position and the position of local fellow Republicans appears illogical.

Explaining the Illogical

Although not always readily evident, everything that happens in politics has a logical explanation. The best way to deduce the logic is to look at the actions.

Measure L will raise a billion dollars. The cost of the amenities promised in the ballot argument and campaign statements in favor of Measure L does not add up to one billion dollars when added to existing tax revenues and anticipated increases in revenues. Since government always spends all of the taxes it collects, what will be the use of undesignated funds? Since Measure L is a transportation tax, it will be used to increase capacity of local roadway to serve NEW urban development. In short, a large portion of Measure L will subsidize development.

Mayor Brandvold has said that he is appointing a committee to look at developer fees. Is the purpose of the committee to determine how fees can be cut? The committee will likely contain a majority of developers and their associates who will set fees too low to pay for the infrastructure needed to serve new development. Modesto’s share of Measure L revenue will then be needed to cover the shortfall in infrastructure fees. Taxpayers will end up subsidizing new growth every time they make a purchase.

Undoubtedly, some readers are pooh-poohing this analysis. Unfortunately, this is the only logical conclusion one can derive from the apparently illogical decisions that have been made thus far. If the Mayor cares to provide an explanation in the comments section of this article, we would all like to read them.

The Matching Funds Argument

Appearing in Measure L campaign statements and the argument in favor of Measure L in the voter handbook is the statement that voters must pass this tax increase so that Stanislaus County can receive matching funds from state and federal governments. Matching funds are granted to road construction projects for the purpose of increasing capacity.

The Measure L campaign statements provide evidence that the intent is to use the money for increased road capacity, but don’t truthfully acknowledge the intent. When the sales tax is used to subsidize road building, the act constitutes taxpayer subsidy of new urban growth; taxpayers are made to pay for infrastructure benefitting new growth. If no growth occurred, no increase in road carrying capacity would be needed.

The Pothole Fix

A billion dollars in additional revenue will be collected if Measure L passes. No potholes should exist after every road is repaved in the county. Don’t expect the potholes to disappear. The money will not be used to fill all of the potholes. Those same potholes will be needed to convince taxpayers to pass another sales tax increase a few years after Measure L passes.

As the lessons of Village One teach us, no matter how much developers are granted, they will always seek more subsidies. They will attempt to influence as many local politicians as they can to get taxpayer money. Measure L is an extension of that effort, giving the public a little of what it wants, but the bulk for special interests.



Bruce Frohman
Bruce Frohman
Bruce Frohman served on the Modesto City Council from 1999-2003. He believes the best way to build a better community is to have an informed citizenry.
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