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Will tax measures overwhelm voters?

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.


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