Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Sunset" Clause Resolution May Not Be Binding on Transporation Infastructure Tax

Last night, Albuquerque City Councilors approved a resolution, which stipulates a 10 -year expiration date on a proposed one-quarter cent Transportation Infrastructure Tax, unless re-approved by voters in 2019.

Councilors passed the resolution because the current language, printed on the city's municipal election ballot, does not reflect an expiration date.

770KKOB Morning Show Host Bob Clark says he thinks the councilor's resolution may be meaningless.

District 5 City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who's running for re-election himself, told Clark, in an email, that he believes the council's resolution is valid, because councilors already have the authority to impose taxes and can limit them in time.

In his email to Clark, Cadigan writes that he would not support raising or extending a tax without a public vote. He says, however:
The 10 year limit is not; however binding on future city councils. A future city council could extend the tax without voter approval, as the Mayor sought to do last year. So, even if the ballot measure (which was written by the Administration) had said the tax ends in 10 years, the Council could, in theory, vote at a later time to impose a new tax beyond the 10 years.
The current transportation tax had a clearly written sunset clause. It expires in December.

We checked the city clerk's website and found the current proposal online. There is no language mandating a 10-year limit.

Mayor Chavez, who a court toss term limits for the Mayor's office last year, has said the tax is needed to continue to build and maintain the city's tranpsortation city, including new bike trails. The measure does not authorize any money for light rail or trolley systems.

Albuquerque Journal Reporter Dan McKay check with the city attorney's office. This morning he write,
City Attorney Bob White said there is no legal problem with putting a 10-year limit on the tax this year, even though that language doesn't appear on the ballot. He said that, even if voters approve, the council has to pass an ordinance enacting the tax, so putting the deadline in that legislation is fine.
Revenue generated from tax would be dedicated to specific transportation projects including 31% for road rehabilitation, 15% for road deficiencies, 13% for road maintenance, 5% for trails and bikeways, and 36% for transit buses.

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