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Fresno County Democrats, Republicans Agree: No on $1.4 Billion Fresno State Tax
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By Edward Smith
Published 3 months ago on
January 5, 2024

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A 25-year county sales tax measure to fund capital projects and improvements at Fresno State has both sides of the political aisle coming together to say the tax is too much.

The Fresno County Democratic Party voted Wednesday to oppose Measure E because of the impact the .25% sales tax would have on low-income earners and the proximity of one of the county’s largest developers to a construction measure, according to Andy Hansen-Smith, alternate on the board of the group.

On Dec. 18, 2023, the Lincoln Club voted unanimously to oppose the measure, according to the Lincoln Club’s Brooke Ashjian. He said the Republican group sees Measure E as “double taxation” because it’s the state’s responsibility to fund California State University system schools.

He added that club members don’t believe the measure provides the necessary internal controls to ensure that construction projects are fairly bid.

Hansen-Smith also cited the fact that local taxpayers would end up supporting students from outside Fresno County.

“A lot of sales taxes, they tend to be regressive and it would affect low-income earners the most. And they would have to shoulder the burden to pay for not necessarily people who live in the county to go to Fresno State.”

While the Democrats acknowledged the financial needs of the college, they felt the state should take on the costs, Hansen-Smith said.

“There were also worries that maybe this measure was kind of benefitting select developers,” Hansen-Smith said.

Measure E Would Fund Fresno State’s Capital Improvements

This is the second run of Measure E. In 2022, Richard Spencer, chairman of the board of Harris Construction nearly single-handedly spearheaded the measure. The measure lost, receiving 47.14% of the vote. This time, backers say they are lining up broader financial support in their bid to pass the measure.

County voting records showed that ballot-box support for the measure in 2022 came largely from left-leaning voting precincts.

The .25% county-wide sales tax would generate $1.4 billion for the university over the life of the measure, according to organizers. The measure will appear on the March primary ballot. They say the money would address deferred maintenance and fund new capital projects such as a new nursing facility, a new engineering facility, and renovations to Bulldog Stadium.

Opposition from the county Democrats will result in the creation of flyers listing the reasons behind their decision. Callers asking about how the group feels about the measure would hear about their objections, Hansen-Smith said.

Democrats’ Opposition Came Without a Measure E Presentation: Orman

Tim Orman, general consultant for the Measure E campaign, said he was disappointed that the Democrats would take a stand without first hearing from organizers.

“They didn’t even ask us to come in and explain Measure E to them and make our case,” Orman said. “I don’t see how they can make a well-thought-out decision without hearing our side.”

However, Ashjian said the Lincoln Club proposed that Measure E supporters participate in a debate “and they refused to respond.”

Orman said other groups have asked for presentations. In December, Orman made a presentation before the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, asking for an endorsement.

Orman said that every project funded by Measure E would have to go through a state-mandated bidding process.

Funding Measure E also expands the ability of Fresno State to offer opportunities to break the cycle of poverty, Orman said.

Two-thirds of graduates at Fresno State are the first in their families to attend college.

“Those are the biggest beneficiaries of Measure E in my opinion,” Orman said.

Other Fresno County Democratic Party Endorsements

The Fresno County Democratic Party also voted on local candidates they supported:

  • Fresno County Supervisor District 2: Bryce Herrera
  • Fresno County Supervisor District 3: No endorsement
  • Fresno City Council District 2: Mike Karbassi
  • Fresno City Council District 4: Tyler Maxwell
  • Fresno City Council District 6: No endorsement
  • Fresno City Mayor: No endorsement

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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