Vehicle fee hike may make Sonoma County June ballot

Sonoma County transit planners gave strong support Monday for a last-minute proposal to put a $10 vehicle registration fee on the June ballot.

The fee would raise about $5 million a year to fund local bus transportation, the Safe Route to Schools program and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

"It is to bolster the losses that have been suffered by transportation agencies," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "It is to bolster transportation and provide other services."

Smith said the county agency and its advisory groups began talking about the idea just 10 days ago and there has been no time to conduct public opinion polling. The measure must be presented to county election officials by Friday afternoon fit to qualify for the June 10 ballot.

Given the two-thirds support for the latest transportation measures that passed, including a quarter cent sales tax for road projects and the quarter cent for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit trains, she said she feels it the registration fee hike would pass.

The measure would require a simple majority approval from voters.

"It's unlikely that there would be a hugely funded campaign, and perhaps there would be opposition, but I don't think it would be well-funded," Smith said.

On Monday directors of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, however, put off a final vote on the proposal until a special session they called for 1 p.m. Friday, which is four hours before the ballot deadline.

Several agency board members said they wanted to get direction from their city councils, even though they supported the measure.

"It's an inconsequential amount of money," said Petaluma Councilman David Glass, referring to the $10 fee hike.

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