The proposal to add $10 to vehicle registration fees to benefit Sonoma County transit agencies will be one of a number of ballot measures in April, June and November that officials fear could tax the patience of voters struggling to make ends meet.
"My degree of confidence about passage is, I'd say, moderate," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "It's a hard time for governments to ask people for money and I fully appreciate how difficult it is."
The agency's board of directors will take a final vote Friday on whether to put a measure on the June ballot asking voters to increase registration fees.
It would raise $105 million over 20 years, with 73 percent earmarked for bus transit operations, 15 percent for the Safe Routes to School program and 12 percent for county bike and pedestrian pathways.
The measure would take a simple majority vote to pass.
With the recession eroding government revenues, cities, special districts, school districts and special interest groups already are lining up for the ballot.
"From here on out, at least in the short number of years, the next five years or so, these fiscal issues will be constantly in front of voters," said Jake Mackenzie, a Rohnert Park councilman and transportation authority chairman. "People will look at the measures and if they feel it is warranted, they will vote for it."
In April, the city of Cotati will ask for a half-cent sales tax to make up for losses in state revenue.
On the June ballot, Rohnert Park is seeking a half-cent sales tax hike, the Mark West School District has a bond measure and the Russian River Fire Protection District has a parcel tax assessment.
In November, the city of Santa Rosa could have its own sales tax measure before voters, while the California Parks Foundation intends to put a vehicle license fee on the ballot — $18 per car — that would raise money for state parks.
"Tax measures are always difficult, but they are even more difficult when voters are in a bad mood and even more difficult when there are competing measures on the ballot asking for money at the same time," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
However, polling found that more than 60 percent of voters support similar tax hikes in Marin and Alameda counties, which are considering putting tax measures on the November ballot, Sonoma County officials said.
The feeling was mixed at the state Department of Motor Vehicles offices in Santa Rosa.
"I could go for it, $10 is not too bad," said Clay Adams of Forestville. "Transportation is a necessity."
"Ten dollars seems like a small fee," said Tom Turrini of Windsor.
Espen Skaar of Rohnert Park said the bus system would have to be as good as in his native Norway before he'd commit more money for it.
"It's unfortunate, but mass transit service is so sparse, it's not enough," Skaar said.
"Registrations are expensive already. I definitely wouldn't support it," said Chris Sloan of Santa Rosa.
There was widespread support at the transportation authority meeting on Monday by directors, who are council members and county supervisors, but they withheld taking a final vote until they could meet with their city councils.