Business group drops plan for county sales-tax hike

Silicon Valley Leadership Group backs away from tax for transportation improvements

An effort by Silicon Valley businesses to place a tax measure for transportation projects on the November ballot skidded to a halt Wednesday when the group decided to wait until 2016.

Citing a "dismal turnout" in the June 3 primary election, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group decided not to pursue a quarter-cent addition to the Santa Clara County sales tax, a measure that would have brought in an estimated $3.5 billion for various transportation projects. About $1.5 billion would have been spent on an extension of BART to San Jose. The rest would be split between highway fixes and other transportation projects, including Caltrain improvements.

The proposal proved a tough sell in Palo Alto, where officials requested more funding for Caltrain, even if this means raising the increase to a three-eighths of a cent. Last week, the City Council approved a letter calling for the additional one-eighth cent to go to Caltrain to support projects such as grade separations.

Palo Alto's letter followed a presentation in late May by Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, who cited an April poll showing 73 percent support in the county for a transportation measure.

Now, the issue is moot. In an online post, Guardino wrote that the group is now looking to put the measure on the November 2016 ballot.

"Based on the dismal voter turnout in the June 3 primary election, bringing out a record low number of voters, we now expect a very low turnout this November," Guardino wrote. "Low turnouts do not bode well for transportation funding measures, so the Leadership Group Board has made the painful decision to wait – made more painful by the fact that our employees and families are waiting in traffic jams that need to be addressed."

Guardino noted that the 2016 election was its original goal before it started considering this year's election. The original goal, he noted, is "once again our goal."

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Like this comment
Posted by Ben
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:05 pm

73% support for a tax hike to continue funding transportation projects boosted by SVLG? Who was polled, SVLG members and some BART employees for good measure?

I believe that the already collected tax funds can not, or will not, be accounted for when the SVLG was asked about it in response to their pushing an extension of that tax. Blaming the low voter turnout for the June 3 election as the reason to drop the measure doesn't add up either as low voter turn out for interim elections is always low.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:51 pm

This article seems to have its facts wrong. As I understand it the SVLG proposal was for 1/4% (2/8% for those who are fractionally challenged) sales tax increase, but Palo Alto requested it be bumped up to 3/8%.

As I understand it, the original plan was to put this proposal on the 2016 ballot but, for some reason, they decided to put it on the 2014 November ballot instead. After polling, however, they realized that it would not pass this fall. The demographics for a mid-term election are very different than those for a presidential election, ant this item is much more likely to pass with the larger and more diverse turnout in 2016.

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Posted by Coooper
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:31 pm

I'd like to think that it was the large negative turnout on this board, opposing the tax, that made SVLG change course, no matter what it claims. Now if only the city council would get the message!

Like this comment
Posted by no tax rises!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:51 pm

We don't need any more tax rises around here. We already pay close to if not the highest cumulative tax rates in the country.

Like this comment
Posted by Midtown Observer
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Instead of a sales tax, I like the idea Dave Price suggested -- taxing the company's in Guardino's Silicon Valley Leadership Group for the cost of improving our transportation infrastructure. Why do the little guys who pay the sales tax always get stuck with the bill?

Like this comment
Posted by Be a Real Leader
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:58 am

Use the "DeeperPockets" system and let the businesses who cause the excessive traffic and pollution pay the tax. 99% of households and individuals really cannot afford another tax! no matter how much good it will do!

Man up, Mr Guardino!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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