March 14, 2017 (Sacramento) California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) unveiled today a proposal to reform how the San Diego region spends and tracks the billions of dollars in transportation funding it receives from taxpayers.
Assembly Bill 805 would overhaul the decision-making process at the region’s transportation planning agency, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), as well as the two transit districts that serve portions of San Diego County to provide better equity through proportional representation on the boards of directors that oversee those agencies. Additionally, the bill would create new financial controls at SANDAG by requiring that it employ an independent auditor who would report to a newly formed Audit Committee, comprised of members of the public, to oversee the agency’s spending plans, financial forecasts and annual budget.
“Taxpayers deserve more than they’ve received in the past from SANDAG,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “Anyone who watched the Measure A debacle and its fallout knows it’s time to reform the way we raise and spend transportation dollars in the San Diego region.”
Measure A, which would have raised the sales tax by one-half cent across San Diego County to fund projects that SANDAG controls, failed on the November 2016 ballot.
AB 805 would also provide the two local transit operators – the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District – the ability to approach voters in the communities they represent with a ballot measure to raise the sales tax to fund transit projects and operations.
The bill includes additional accountability measures, such as placing more decision-making authority in the hands of the mayors of each city, requiring annual reports are made to the state accounting for SANDAG’s plans to fund public transit needs, and insisting that regional transportation plans address greenhouse gas reduction rules and the needs of disadvantaged communities.
“When billions of dollars of taxpayer money are at stake, as well as the work commutes and public health of every San Diegan, we need to strengthen the checks and balances of the people,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “The current system is beholden to an arcane voting system that doesn’t reflect the county’s population and concentrates too much power with bureaucrats instead of the leaders that are elected to make tough decisions.”
AB 805 would eliminate the “single agency vote” in the three transportation agencies, a process that allows every municipality within the agency’s jurisdiction to cast a vote of equal weight, regardless of the population. AB 805’s reform to base decisions such as regional transportation plans, operating budgets and funding priorities on the weighted vote – meaning a municipality’s voting strength would be proportionate to its population – more closely aligns with the principal of “one person, one vote.”