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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 23rd, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 46 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 46

Santa Barbara Supervisors say no to oil tax--for now

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Though members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors alluded to the fact that they would likely vote against a proposed oil-tax ordinance for June’s ballot, county residents still felt the need to speak out against it during the public comment period of the Jan. 21 meeting.

“I don’t believe the majority of the people know that the [oil] royalty owners are being taxed,” Janice Battles told supervisors via teleprompter from Santa Maria. “And that would be me.”

In December 2013, supervisors voted 3-2, with supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino dissenting, to direct county staff to draft an oil-tax ordinance to be considered on June’s election ballot. The tax would have cost oil companies $1 per barrel of oil produced in the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County.

Sometime between December and now, though, the three supervisors who initially voted in favor of drafting the ordinance changed their minds. After the public comment period was over, supervisors voted 5-0 against putting the ordinance on the ballot.

“Everything is backwards today,” Chair Lavagnino said during the 
hearing.

He joked that he would fall out of his chair if his colleague Adam suddenly changed his mind and opted to vote in favor of putting the tax on the ballot.

It’s not that the three supervisors who voted in favor of the initiative in December no longer wanted an oil tax—they just thought the timing of it would be better in the future.

“In order for it to be successful, we need to have a community-wide conversation about this,” 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said during the hearing. “It’s really all about timing at the end of the day.”

Carbajal said he thought it would be wise for his board to consider the issue at another time, once people on both sides had the ability to debate the point publicly. Of course, the supervisors still put county staff through the task of drafting an ordinance and completing a report on what the funds would be earmarked for and how much revenue could be generated, but Carbajal said that just means the county is that much closer to getting things done for the next time around.

A staff report said that in 2010, a $1 tax could have generated about $3 million in revenue, and in 2013, it would have brought in a little more than $4 million for county coffers. Those funds were marked for allocation to county libraries, fire stations, and parks and open spaces. The notion of taxing oil companies was first brought to the supervisors’ attention by a grand jury report.