Yes on Marin County Measure A: Strong Start for Kids

This statement was provided by the Marin County Central Committee.

Measure A: Strong Start for Kids. Vote YES to fund expanded preschool child care and health services for low-income children in Marin County, although we have reservations regarding the sales tax funding mechanism.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for put the measure on the ballot. Almost all the local politicians support the measure as do the local service providers for children including a coalition of the Marin Child Care Council, First 5 Marin, MarinKids, Community Action Marin, Marin Child Care Commission, and Parent Voices and Youth Leadership Institute. Measure proponents plan to raise $200,000 to support the YES vote, which will require a two-thirds majority.

According to the measure’s proponents, Marin County is the healthiest and wealthiest county in California, but also has the greatest “equity gap” in the state based on class and ethnicity. The statistics for Marin County speak for themselves:

  • Preschool:
    • 1 out of 3 children does not attend preschool often due to high cost for families.
    • Fewer than 50% of poor children start school ready versus 75% who are not poor – a 27% gap.
    • By third grade, 66% of economically disadvantaged children did not read at grade level.
  • Healthcare:
    • 12% of Marin children ages 2-11 have never seen a dentist.
    • 20% of kindergartners did not have required immunizations.
    • Only 55% of economically disadvantaged children are at a healthy weight.
  • Childcare:
    • 30% of families have an income insufficient to meet basic needs of their family.
    • As many as 800 families are on a wait list and unable to secure affordable childcare.
  • After school programs:
    • 60% fewer children who are poor or racially diverse meet state targets in math and English and generally have unequal access to academic supports such as tutoring.

Measure A would generate an estimated $12 million annually and $108 million over its 9-year life. While not nearly enough, Strong Start is a step in the right direction.

But we have strong reservations about the funding mechanism. A ¼ cent sales tax would be added to one of the highest sales tax rates in the state.

Sales taxes are among the most regressive of taxes, because they take a larger share of income from low- and middle-income families than from rich families. Sales taxes are levied at a flat rate, while spending as a share of income falls as income rises. Poor and working people spend a far larger percentage of their family income on necessities, which are subject to sales taxes, than do the rich. In California, the sales tax share of family income is 6.8% for the very poor, 4.5% for the middle, and 0.8% for the very rich. The unfair disparity is even larger for Marin County.

Even though the measure disproportionately taxes poor people to serve poor people, we support Strong Start because it provides needed services to an underserved constituency. In addition to the local politicos, grassroots organizations in the largely Latina/o Canal Area and the largely African-American Marin City also back the measure. Vote YES on Measure A.