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SLO anti-fee initiative qualifies for ballot 

click to enlarge SCARED? :  The SLO City Council would lose its ability to raise fees if the User and Regulatory Fees Initiative passes. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • SCARED? : The SLO City Council would lose its ability to raise fees if the User and Regulatory Fees Initiative passes.
Tired of ever-rising fees choking your standard of living? Worried about The Man picking your pocket?

If you live in San Luis Obispo, your time may have come.

Supporters of the User and Regulatory Fees Initiative, proposed by the San Luis Obispo Property Owners Association, have gathered and turned in approximately 5,595 signatures to the city clerk. Though the signatures were submitted too late for this year’s election, the initiative’s supporters are hoping to get their issue on the 2012 ballot.

If it qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, the initiative would require fee increases proposed by city officials to go to a popular vote. Currently, the City Council can approve fee increases during regular public hearings.

Because the initiative would modify the city’s charter, more than 15 percent of the city’s voters—4,056, it turns out—were needed to get the initiative on the ballot. There should be more than enough signatures to get the language on the ballot, even if some signatures are found to be invalid.

If certified by the city, the anti-fee initiative might go head to head with the renewal of Proposition Y, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2006. For the sales tax to continue to replenish the city’s declining coffers, Measure Y must be renewed by 2014. A consultant hired by the city to conduct a public-opinion survey suggested to the City Council it would be easier to get Measure Y passed if its renewal is put on the ballot early because more Democrats vote during a presidential election.

If both the User and Regulatory Fees Initiative and Measure Y have a face-off on the 2012 ballot, voters will have a choice between an initiative to have a direct vote on fee increases and, on the other hand, a continuation of a hike in the sales tax. A recent city survey found Measure Y is still popular, but that support could erode because of binding arbitration in labor negotiation. As a result of binding arbitration, police officers received large raises that boosted pay to among the highest in the state.

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