News

Bay Area: One-cent sales tax for transit could be on 2020 ballot

Preliminary projections indicate up to $100 billion could be raised over 40 years

Bay Area voters may be asked to approve a one-cent sales tax in 2020 that would fund a wide array of transportation projects and improvements across the region.

The sales tax has been proposed by a coalition of policy advocacy groups, including the Bay Area Council, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The coalition has dubbed themselves FASTER Bay Area and presented their plan to the BART board of directors at a meeting in Oakland on Thursday. According to their presentation, they project the tax could raise up to $100 billion over 40 years.

The funds would be dispersed to regional transit districts, including BART, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and others. The policy groups are primarily interested in "big, transformational projects that better connect jobs to housing through a more integrated transit system," according to a memo by BART general manager Robert Powers.

That could include regional rail improvements, including more exclusive right-of-way for BART and Caltrain, and more express freeway lanes. It would also emphasize closing gaps between transit systems, more fare integration and improvements to transit hubs and stations.

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For BART, it could include funding for a new transbay rail crossing to complement the existing Transbay Tube, which is often overcrowded during peak hours. It could also include more mundane upgrades to BART's existing infrastructure and earthquake safety improvements in the Caldecott Tunnel.

The FASTER advocates cited a 21% increase in commute times in Silicon Valley from 2010 to 2017 and said that was contributing to nearly half of residents responding to a recent Bay Area Council poll saying they were considering leaving the Bay Area.

FASTER has conducted polls that indicate voters are open to raising taxes for regional transportation improvements and that differences in support between funding measures are slight.

But some BART directors had concerns about the use of a sales tax, which tends to impact low-income residents more and can fluctuate widely in the event of an economic downturn.

"I am really concerned about the one-cent sales tax," said Director Janice Li, who represents portions of San Francisco, adding that she was disappointed the advocates didn't present any alternatives.

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"I think it would have been more appropriate if you said, 'here is a list of things that can get us to 100 billion, we think a sales tax is the best way,' but you didn't come with that list," Li said.

Director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, agreed, and pointed out that the sales tax may require passage of statewide legislation first. California caps sales tax at 10.25% and Saltzman said some cities have already reached that maximum.

Furthermore, Saltzman argued that a mix of revenue streams would be better than a sales tax, which can be volatile in the event of a recession. Big projects could be forced to be put on hold when revenue plummets.

"Whatever mix you do, it's going to be more resilient than just having one type of tax," Saltzman said.

The sales tax could be on the ballot for all nine Bay Area counties in November 2020.

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Bay Area: One-cent sales tax for transit could be on 2020 ballot

Preliminary projections indicate up to $100 billion could be raised over 40 years

by /

Uploaded: Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 8:34 am

Bay Area voters may be asked to approve a one-cent sales tax in 2020 that would fund a wide array of transportation projects and improvements across the region.

The sales tax has been proposed by a coalition of policy advocacy groups, including the Bay Area Council, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The coalition has dubbed themselves FASTER Bay Area and presented their plan to the BART board of directors at a meeting in Oakland on Thursday. According to their presentation, they project the tax could raise up to $100 billion over 40 years.

The funds would be dispersed to regional transit districts, including BART, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and others. The policy groups are primarily interested in "big, transformational projects that better connect jobs to housing through a more integrated transit system," according to a memo by BART general manager Robert Powers.

That could include regional rail improvements, including more exclusive right-of-way for BART and Caltrain, and more express freeway lanes. It would also emphasize closing gaps between transit systems, more fare integration and improvements to transit hubs and stations.

For BART, it could include funding for a new transbay rail crossing to complement the existing Transbay Tube, which is often overcrowded during peak hours. It could also include more mundane upgrades to BART's existing infrastructure and earthquake safety improvements in the Caldecott Tunnel.

The FASTER advocates cited a 21% increase in commute times in Silicon Valley from 2010 to 2017 and said that was contributing to nearly half of residents responding to a recent Bay Area Council poll saying they were considering leaving the Bay Area.

FASTER has conducted polls that indicate voters are open to raising taxes for regional transportation improvements and that differences in support between funding measures are slight.

But some BART directors had concerns about the use of a sales tax, which tends to impact low-income residents more and can fluctuate widely in the event of an economic downturn.

"I am really concerned about the one-cent sales tax," said Director Janice Li, who represents portions of San Francisco, adding that she was disappointed the advocates didn't present any alternatives.

"I think it would have been more appropriate if you said, 'here is a list of things that can get us to 100 billion, we think a sales tax is the best way,' but you didn't come with that list," Li said.

Director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, agreed, and pointed out that the sales tax may require passage of statewide legislation first. California caps sales tax at 10.25% and Saltzman said some cities have already reached that maximum.

Furthermore, Saltzman argued that a mix of revenue streams would be better than a sales tax, which can be volatile in the event of a recession. Big projects could be forced to be put on hold when revenue plummets.

"Whatever mix you do, it's going to be more resilient than just having one type of tax," Saltzman said.

The sales tax could be on the ballot for all nine Bay Area counties in November 2020.

Related content:

Palo Alto looks to business tax to fund shuttles, rail improvements

Comments

Bill Hough
Los Altos
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:42 am
Bill Hough, Los Altos
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:42 am
57 people like this

Vote NO. Over the last several elections, voters in Santa Clara County have passed multiple tax and fee increases including gas taxes, two bridge toll increases, three VTA sales taxes, Santa Clara County’s Measure A 1/8 cent sales tax, the state prop 30 ¼ cent sales tax and the 2010 Measure B Vehicle Registration Fee of $10. Additionally, we’re on the hook to pay back numerous state bond issues including high speed rail, last year’s Proposition 1 water bond and the infrastructure bonds of 2006.

All of this nickel and diming has contributed into making the Bay Area a horribly expensive place to live; especially for people of modest means, who must pay the greatest percentage of their income in these regressive taxes and fees. Each increase by itself does not amount to much, say a quarter cent, but the cumulative effect is to add to the unaffordability of the region.

Before increasing taxes YET AGAIN, waste needs to be removed from transportation projects. For example, VTA needs to eliminate waste and "gold plating" of the BART extension's cost by reducing the scope to eliminate duplicate facilities. Specifically, we need to eliminate the redundant and wasteful section between the San Jose and Santa Clara Caltrain stations. The BART segment from these stations would duplicate both the existing Caltrain line and VTA's 22 and 522 buses to a station that has approximately 1000 riders each weekday.

Why don’t the wealthy high-rollers in the “Leadership Group” suggest taxing their rich companies and leave the little guy alone for a change?



Pat Burt
Registered user
Community Center
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:33 am
Pat Burt, Community Center
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:33 am
19 people like this

I agree that our region needs large investments in transportation. However, this proposal by the business community is to fund the so called “mega measure” solely by a regressive sales tax that will disproportionately burden low and moderate income workers just like every other bridge tax, gas tax and sales tax that big business leaders have put forth for years. Why is there no responsibility for funding from big tech who are the primary drivers of the problems through their massive expansion in concentrated areas and who have received hundreds of billions in windfall profits from federal corporate tax breaks?
This thread needs to go hand in hand with the current one about the city council Finance Com consideration of a local business tax. Among the kitchen sink arguments against it put forth by the SVLG, our Chamber of Commerce and our own city staff, was the claim that there may be an economic downturn on the horizon. Why is that argument not being made in the context of taxing modest income workers more to subsidize the wants of big tech? And, if that is a genuine concern, why did those business groups oppose a local business tax in 2016 when there was little downturn risk?


Dan
Midtown
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:53 am
Dan, Midtown
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:53 am
25 people like this

10%+ sales tax for the poor infrastructure and services that we get around here is ridiculous. Voting No! on this measure for sure if it appears on the ballot.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:55 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:55 am
22 people like this

I have an alternate proposal. How about we cut all taxes in half until taxpayers get something close to their money's worth?


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:06 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:06 am
13 people like this

Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside

>> I have an alternate proposal. How about we cut all taxes in half until taxpayers get something close to their money's worth?

I have an alternate to your alternate. We need to raise taxes on the wealthy and super-wealthy and their corporations to pay for transportation infrastructure that supports their businesses.

We need to find a way -other than- regressive sales taxes that hurt the struggling working class and middle class.

-No to further sales tax.- Sales taxes are a bad idea.


Trump's corporate and billionaire giveaways
Mayfield
on Aug 23, 2019 at 12:41 pm
Trump's corporate and billionaire giveaways, Mayfield
on Aug 23, 2019 at 12:41 pm
Like this comment

Repeal the trump giveaways to corporations and billionaires. Use that trillion immediately on infrastructure.

Corporations and billionaires benefit greatly with better infrastructure. More than the average Joe.

Win-win.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:15 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:15 pm
8 people like this

Do we have to put up with political comments while we are trying to address a REAL PROBLEM?
This is a problem that the state created and we agreed to. Start thinking about the here and now of those decisions made way back when. Back when we agreed to a BART tax. That was to bring the BART down the peninsula to circle the bay. It could have been on the west side via Foothill Exp. to close the loop. We ended up funding the San Jose and east bay BART extensions. Sorry - the county needs to address our problems from the slush fund that we help create for BART and never benefited from.


Fiscal IQ
Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:58 pm
Fiscal IQ, Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:58 pm
18 people like this

If anything (and given the current situation), the sales tax should be REDUCED by 1% or more.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm
2 people like this

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> Do we have to put up with political comments while we are trying to address a REAL PROBLEM?

Try explaining it to me more slowly. I can be slow up on the uptake sometimes. What could possibly be more -political- than -taxes-?!?!?

As for taxes-- I think general sales taxes are a really bad idea. Income and property taxes are much fairer.


WTF - no taxes !
Charleston Gardens
on Aug 23, 2019 at 7:59 pm
WTF - no taxes ! , Charleston Gardens
on Aug 23, 2019 at 7:59 pm
14 people like this

WTF - can the so called advocacy groups and leadership groups start looking at REDUCING taxes and start futurist out how to run a budget. Bring some savvy retired public consent CFOs to show how to run a budget and stop wastage !


Insider
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:35 pm
Insider, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:35 pm
14 people like this

The Silicon Valley mis-Leadership Group are straight up corporate shills. Residents should vote against ANYTHING supported by the Silicon Valley mis-Leadership Group.


Insider
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:49 pm
Insider, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 10:49 pm
10 people like this

Davis said:
"I have an alternate proposal. How about we cut all taxes in half until taxpayers get something close to their money's worth?"


Anon said:
"I have an alternate to your alternate. We need to raise taxes on the wealthy and super-wealthy and their corporations to pay for transportation infrastructure that supports their businesses"

I'm with Davis. Anon's alternate proposal is just a slightly more palatable way of keeping the destructive mad orgy of unsustainable growth and outrageous waste, fraud, and abuse going for a few more years.


musical
Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2019 at 5:40 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Aug 24, 2019 at 5:40 am
2 people like this

Looks like a 10 percent tax increase to me.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 24, 2019 at 8:34 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2019 at 8:34 am
4 people like this

Time to consider the State of California which is a tax defining state and the ideas it comes with to tax then not produce the supposed reason for the taxes. Readers are trying not to point a finger at what is happening in our state and the people who run it and pass that off to the federal issues. We have massive incompetency at the county and state level. We have already voted previously for taxes at the state level for roads but that money got swept into the state retirement fund. The state keeps shifting the priorities for those funds after they have been voted on. Suggest that the state auditor produce a review of the taxes voted on for any one subject then report on how that money was spent. And where it was spent.


Alex
Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2019 at 8:53 am
Alex, Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2019 at 8:53 am
11 people like this

Typical of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, push a sales tax to pay for infrastructure that their clients, some of the wealthiest corporations in the world, need to get workers from all over the area to their offices close to where the ceo's live. The most important detail is that of course, those corporations pay $0, and typical with Silicon Valley Leadership Group tax initiatives, BART is the designated beneficiary. Per the article, BART should get a second transbay tunnel and other "mundane" improvements. Meanwhile Peninsula cities struggle to find funding for what I would call "critical" grade separations.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:11 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:11 am
7 people like this

Alex - agree. The SVLG is a lobbying group that does have management expertise. We need to find out who in that group of high power companies are actually paying taxes. We already know that Amazon leverages their business to effect no taxes. And the state plays along with that as well as the feds. Amazon negotiates with each state they are in so someone should renegotiate with them. They need to pay to play. How do states screw themselves so much? And they are the people with the giant retirement plans that are running out of money.


common sense
Midtown
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:53 am
common sense, Midtown
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:53 am
8 people like this

Companies like Amazon aren't paying income taxes, and they provide benefits such as free food to their employees and private bus rides, which they deduct as an expense (and the employee does not report as income) need to pay.

So called "non-profits" where the CEO gets paid $500,000 - $1,000,000, such as Stanford, Stanford Hospital, Sutter Health (Palo Alto Medical Foundation) also need to pay their fair share.

How about instead of a sales tax increase, a per square foot of office space tax, or an employee tax instead.


Resident CV
another community
on Aug 24, 2019 at 1:15 pm
Resident CV, another community
on Aug 24, 2019 at 1:15 pm
4 people like this

Another tax?

Somewhere a pause is NOW required. The abuse of taxes, fees, regulations, etc...is totally out of control in this state.

We know that government agencies are subject to accurate auditing, nor is there an independent firm that can perform an audit with absolute truth.

Nickel and diming days are over! We taxpayer.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2019 at 2:42 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2019 at 2:42 pm
1 person likes this

Posted by Resident CV, a resident of another community

>> Somewhere a pause is NOW required. The abuse of taxes, fees, regulations, etc...is totally out of control in this state.

Nobody "likes" taxes. Ronald Reagan sold some tax changes - which I disapproved of BTW - as being OK because they were "revenue neutral". I would like to see a "revenue neutral" tax shift in California away from sales tax towards income tax, and, a "revenue neutral" tax shift in California towards a more equitable distribution of real estate taxes, including having corporations pay the full tax amount. Replace Prop 13 with a real estate tax discount for the retired/elderly/low-income.


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