Measure A, the Alameda County half-cent sales tax increase to fund childcare and early education programs was defeated last month by just a few hundred votes. Needing a two-thirds majority of all voters for passage, Measure A fell short with 66.20 percent of the vote countywide. The narrow defeat, however, is boosting an effort by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to quickly mount a second attempt with an almost identical measure on the ballot this November.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a first reading of the ballot measure ordinance on Tuesday. The deadline for placing any measure on the fall ballot is Aug. 10. A second and final reading of the ordinance is set for July 24.
Despite Measure A benefiting from a total more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the likes of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the East Bay Community Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and the Service Employees International Union, it still failed at the ballot box.
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan said a list of philanthropists and other organizations are already inquiring about contribution to second attempt at passing a ballot measure to alleviate what has been called a “childcare crisis” in the county.
A proposed second iteration of the half-percent sales tax measure will help fund early childcare and early education programs and is similar to Measure A, except for a few minor and cosmetic changes. While the duration of Measure A was 30 years, this one would be 20 years, said county staff. The total projected tax revenues, however, will stay the same, $140 million over the next two decades.
In addition, the proposed November ballot measure includes new language requiring mandatory annual audits later reviewed by a citizens oversight committee. Perhaps in reaction to some previous negative sentiment among voters last month, the new version of the proposed ballot measure notes that early education specifically includes pre-school.
It also adds an option for families that exceed the state’s median income in community grants portion of the plan. According to county staff, the changes also limit the specificity of what the measure would deliver to county residents. For instance, the list of benefits to residents in Measure A appeared to be more prominent in some areas of the county than others, county staff said of early feedback from voters. There are indications that a common concern among some county voters who opposed Measure A was that they believed they would not receive a fair-share of the measure’s benefits.
How well a second childcare sales tax measure might do in the fall is unknown. County staff said Tuesday that polling on the issue is being done this week. Oakland pollster EMC Research is also testing how the sales tax measure might do relative a number of tax-generating measures being proposed in some local cities this fall.
Supervisor Nate Miley, who supported Measure A and participated in the campaign last spring said he noticed no indication that Measure A would lose based on his own phone banking and door-to-door canvassing. Because of this, he voiced caution Tuesday.
“I just don’t want us to get out there and not win this in November and I know we have an extremely short window on this. I just want to be reassured on this because we thought we were going to win in June and we didn’t,” said Miley. “We need to look with a very critical eye and ask, ‘What is it going to take to get to two-thirds in November?'”
Although the pool of voters will be larger in November than it was during the June primary, a second attempt at passing a half-cent sales tax increase may still be daunting. For one, the 40 percent of Alameda County registered voters who cast a ballot last month was actually higher than typical mid-term primary elections.
Miley noted that while voters in North County–roughly speaking, Oakland and Berkeley–strongly supported Measure A, the mood in South County and the Tri Valley was tepid.
The attraction of a larger, likely more progressive electorate this November, however, is also a determining factor for a host sales tax increases and parcel tax measures potentially on the ballot in a number of Alameda County cities. The addition of a countywide sales tax increase could run the risk of overloading voters. In addition, it is likely opposition to raising taxes will have a high-profile this fall with a statewide proposition to repeal the gas tax likely to dominate the overall election conversation.
There was already hints during the primary that Alameda County voters might be feeling a bit of tax fatigue. Although Regional Measure 3, the $3 bridge toll increase was approved by voters on June 5, Alameda County voters approved it with just about 54 percent support–just four percent above the majority threshold for passage. And similar to Measure A, Regional Measure 3 struggled in South County and the Tri Valley.
Alameda County redoubling its efforts to pass a tax-generating ballot measure following a narrow defeat is not new. However, doing it so quickly is somewhat rare. Measure B1, a countywide half-cent sales tax increase for transportation lost by just 721 votes in 2012. But in that case, the county waited two years before renewing its effort and ultimately passed what became Measure BB with nearly 71 percent support.