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Budget deficit in SLO County's 2023 Regional Transportation Plan

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 16, 2023

San Luis Obispo County's 2023 Regional Transportation Plan comes with a major budget deficit.

The 2023 Regional Transportation Plan extends to 2045, outlining how San Luis Obispo County will accommodate 42,000 additional people and 18,000 new homes and jobs.

“We have $3.1 billion over the next 23 years to maintain and improve our transportation systems,” said James Worthley, San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) Planning Division Chief.

But that’s not enough.

“The requests and the needs top $5.4 billion. So yes, there’s a deficit," he said.

Worthley explains they cannot make up for the deficit and must stay within the budget.

In order to gain plan approval from the Federal Highway Administration, they cannot find new funding and add it to the current plan, so they are applying for a state competitive grant for $55 million. However, they are competing against 25 surrounding counties for the funding, including Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Monterey.

Worthley says those surrounding counties have a dedicated half-cent sales tax, approved by voters, that they use for transportation improvements as well as to match toward federal and state competitive grants.

“We will be competing with those other agencies that have those extra funds that are putting up 20%, 30%, 40%, so we’re putting up 10%, just a little bit above that,” Worthley said.

San Luis Obispo Council of Governments Executive Director Peter Rogers explains how this budget deficit impacts projects here in San Luis Obispo County.

“That would result into projects being delayed or not built at all or excluded from being in the constrained part of the plan," Rodgers said.

He says using the funding they do have for various projects throughout the county would still continue, just at a slower pace, but they are already planning for the future.

“We’re evaluating whether or not it makes sense to go forward with a regional sales tax increment and we’re doing polling to see what the public feels, what our board feels,” Rodgers said.

San Luis Obispo County had a sales tax measure on the ballot in 2016 but it failed by 450 votes. SLOCOG expects to start polling residents about a new measure starting in late April.