SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Fed up with years of diminishing services, voters around the state approved dozens of local tax measures Tuesday, even as they authorized Gov. Jerry Brown's statewide sales tax hike.
Voters passed 71 percent of local tax and bond measures on the ballots, according to the League of California Cities fiscal policy adviser Michael Coleman.
In the San Joaquin County town of Lathrop, firefighter union president Josh Clapper pointed to deep cuts in fire protection and public safety services to explain residents' overwhelming support for a 1 cent sales tax increase.
“A tax measure passing with 75 percent is pretty unheard of here,” said Josh Clapper, who went door to door in support of the initiative. “We explained to people that this doesn't go to the state, it stays in your local community. Once they recognized that this was local money for local services, they were more at ease.”
Carmel, Fairfield, Holister, La Mirada, and Moraga also approved a 1 percent sales tax to be added on to the state rate. Many typically conservative, anti-tax communities also approved hikes.
“It's one thing for them to pass in San Francisco or San Jose, but when they're passing in Fresno something else is going on,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
Hundreds of cities, counties, school districts and local special districts asked voters to help roll back years of service reductions, layoffs and furloughs. Coleman found that four out of five school bonds and four out of five majority-vote taxes passed Tuesday. Special taxes requiring two-thirds approval did not fare as well.
A solid majority of voters approved Gov. Jerry's Brown's statewide measure, which will raise income taxes on wealthy residents for the next seven years and hike the sales tax by a quarter-cent over the next four years.
Some observers had predicted that Brown's Proposition 30 would get lost in the noise of local tax initiatives, but in the end, it may have helped carry those measures to victory.
“Because Prop 30 increased turnout so significantly, it appears to have ended up intensifying the support for local tax measures,” Schnur said. “Instead of voters saying, `I voted for one, I'm going to vote against the other,' Gov. Brown turned out such a strong youth vote that it led to increased support on both levels.”
In addition to a quarter-cent sales tax under Proposition 30, 24 cities and three counties proposed majority-vote local sales tax hikes. The increases ranged from one-eighth of a percent in Santa Clara County to 1 percent in several other cities.
In the end, all but three communities _ Yucca Valley in San Bernardino, Plumas County and Maricopa in Kern County _ approved those measures.
School districts and community colleges put forward several measures to support construction, buy equipment and make repairs. The rest of the measures were placed on the ballot by municipalities, special districts and school districts to increase or renew parcel, utility and use taxes.
Voters approved 85 out of 106 school bond measures and 52 of 66 general taxes.
The number of local revenue measures is comparable to the volume seen during the 2008 and 2004 presidential election years. The rate of passage of school measures was also in line with historic passage rates.
In Sacramento, voters approved a half-cent sales tax that would raise the rate from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent, 1 percent higher than in neighboring Placer County. With Proposition 30, the capital city's tax rate will rise to 8.5 percent.
Sacramento City Councilman Darrell Fong, a retired police officer, said voters didn't just approve the tax, they sent city leaders a mandate to restore police, fire and park services. Fong said he was surprised by the overwhelming response to Measure U, which imposes a half-cent sales tax for six years to raise about $28 million for the city's general fund.
City leaders backed Measure U, saying their request was a reflection of the impact the recession and its declining tax revenue have had on government services.
“It's not just 50 plus 1. To get to the 60s, to me, that's a mandate. That's a pretty clear choice of the people,” Fong said.
“They don't want to see a reduction in service, especially when it is to public safety and parks. They know we've made the cuts already.”