SMART repeal backers unsure if signature threshold will be met

Facing a Friday deadline to turn in petitions, opponents of a Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train are still not sure if they will be able to force an election to repeal the SMART sales tax.

"I don't know if we have enough signatures," said Clay Mitchell of Windsor, co-chairman of RepealSMART. "I think we are close. Beyond that at this point, I don't know."

Mitchell said backers of the petition drive plan to turn in petitions to the registrars of voters in Sonoma and Marin counties on Friday, if they believe they have 15,000 valid signatures.

They argue the threshold is 15,000 signatures, citing Proposition 218, a 1996 initiative requiring voter approval of tax increases.

However, SMART officials believe it is 39,000 signatures, the threshold set in an elections code cited by the Secretary of State.

RepealSMART has been collecting signatures since late September in an attempt to put a measure on the November ballot to overturn Measure Q, a quarter-cent sales tax passed by voters in November 2008.

After the Friday deadline to turn in petitions, the registrars have 30 working days to validate the signatures.

The sales tax is the major source of funding for the planned commute trains between the two counties.

RepealSMART contends that SMART's plan, which would open with trains running between Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa and downtown San Rafael in late 2015 or early 2016, is far short of what voters approved.

SMART initially planned to have trains running between Cloverdale and Larkspur in late 2014, but the project has been hampered by the weak economy and falling sales taxes, which cut into the money SMART has for construction.

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