In November, Humboldt County voters will be asked to reauthorize the countywide half-cent sales tax that boosts the budget of various local public safety agencies and efforts.

Voters first approved the tax four years ago, when it was listed on the ballot as “Measure Z,” by a 56-44 margin. The tax is set to expire this year, but the county is going back to voters to ask them to make it more or less permanent. (Under the new language, the tax would only end when the public actively votes to end it.)

This morning comes word that the Humboldt & Del Norte Central Labor Council has “reluctantly” decided to endorse the tax, which is labeled “Measure O” on the upcoming ballot. The council is reluctant, it says, because of the regressive nature of sales taxes — poor people pay disproportionately more of their income than rich people do — but it acknowledges that the tax has become an essential revenue stream for many public safety services.

For more information about how county government spends these funds, check out the Measure Z portal on its website.

Press release from the Humboldt and Del Norte Central Labor Council:

At the September general membership meeting the Humboldt & Del Norte Central Labor Council (CLC) delegates reluctantly endorsed a “Yes” vote on Measure O after significant internal discussion. Measure O would replace the expiring Measure Z Funds, and once voted in, would not expire unless by a county wide vote. The distribution of the funds are determined by the Board of Supervisors annually following recommendations from a committee appointed by the same board.

“We are opposed to regressive taxation and its effects on the least fortunate and underemployed. However, we also understand the immediate and substantial impacts to essential services that the citizens of the county at-large would face if Measure O is not passed,” said President Mike Hetticher. “We are committed in the interim to working towards an eventual replacement for this essential funding that will not impact those who can afford it the least.”

Delegate concerns also centered around the formation of the committee and where the funds are used.

“We are constantly being told that the funds go to the general fund, and hence only a simple majority is needed to pass the Measure, but the committee and funding is dominated by law enforcement,” said Secretary-Treasurer John Frahm. “In fact, most of the arguments in favor, and the supporters of Measure O, are from law enforcement. We just believe that if the Tax is supposed to be for the general fund, than a much more diverse committee and disbursement are in order.”