Digital Managing Editor
Voters in the city of Bakersfield have rejected a measure proposing a 1-cent sales tax increase.
Measure N, which would have raised the sales tax in the City of Bakersfield from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent, was expected to bring in $50 million to the city annually.
The measure was placed onto the ballot by the City Council in response to concerns over rising crime rates. 52 percent of voters rejected the measure.
Proponents argued that the revenues were needed to hire additional police officers and to address other issues in the community, like homelessness.
City Councilmember Andrae Gonzales was one of those proponents. The Runner spoke with him as the first results came in, showing the measure failing.
“We know that in many different categories crime has risen over the last few years and it’s important for us to respond to that,” said Gonzales.
“When you only have limited resources and you aren’t able to hire additional police officers, that’s a problem… If it fails, we no longer have that opportunity to make a safer Bakersfield,” he said.
“What we will have in front of us at the council is a conversation about where do we cut and how do we find cost savings so that we can keep our local government running,” said Gonzales.
City Councilmember Jacquie Sullivan also supported the measure.
“The money would have been put to good use… I am a fiscal conservative and I represent fiscal conservatives, but the city really could’ve used it,” said Sullivan. She says that the City Council now faces possible budget cuts and that voters may have to tackle this issue again in the near future.
City Councilmember Ken Weir opposed Measure N.
“The part that wasn’t in the ballot measure that really bothered me, was that a good portion of that money, in about four years, was going to go to pay current pension debt,” says Weir.
“It was not disclosed anywhere, it was not very transparent, and I think the voters heard the message and voted accordingly,” he added.
Weir added that because the revenues would have gone into the general fund, future city councils would have had the power to divert the funds from their intended use.
“I think that the citizens of the city of Bakersfield were presented a true and complete opinion on what would have happened with that money, from both the pro and the con, and when it came down to it, they decided against it,” said Weir.