Vote yes on county Measure ASanta Clara County, like other counties in the state, has been whipsawed by the economic downturn and the state's perennial budget crises. When funding runs short for state safety net and health programs that serve low income residents, the Legislature kicks the problem down to county governments, which at the same time are overburdened by more and more applicants who need services just to survive.
It is a vicious cycle and while the county has shed almost 1,800 employees and slashed its budget by more than $2 billion in the last 10 years, visits to the Valley Medical Center in San Jose rose more than 200,000 in the period, and people looking for housing assistance tripled. Now, despite doing all it can to meet demand, the county clearly is out of options.
We agree with Supervisors who say that the answer is for voters to approve a one-eighth-cent sales tax increase that would last for 10 years and provide $50 million a year to help the county come closer to breaking even. The increase would bring the county's sales tax levy to 8.5 percent, of which 7.25 percent goes to the state, although a portion does return to the county; while one-eighth percent (.125 percent) goes to special district taxes.
If passed, the law would give the county a way to replace some of the dollars lost to cuts by the state and federal governments for health and public safety programs. One in four residents use services offered by the county's Valley Medical Center, including care in the burn and trauma centers. And thousands of low-income children in the Healthy Kids Program will continue to be covered by health insurance if the measure passes.
All county residents need to pitch in and help keep these essential services afloat. We urge a Yes vote on Measure A.
Measure B will protect our water supply
In most years voters wouldn't blink at approving a request to simply continue a parcel tax that costs homeowners now just over $50 a year. But getting support for Measure B that will benefit the Santa Clara Valley Water District could be a challenge, due to the district board's recent tendency to pay itself royally when their workload was minimal. That has changed after new board members were elected and all but one of the old guard board members has moved on.
The "new" board has shown it is serious about giving county residents good value for their tax dollars. The proposed uses for Measure B funds shows good judgment, and when all projects are completed, will help make sure our water supply and the health of our creeks are in good shape. And various flood control projects that have been waiting for completion would be funded as well.
By assuring a steady source of parcel tax income beyond 2016, the district will continue eligibility for federal dollars that could be lost if a vote was delayed until 2014 for the tax, which was passed in 2000. One of the major projects on the urgent to-do list is seismic work on the Anderson Dam, part of the county's largest reservoir. It is paramount that this work be completed soon, as it is vulnerable to damage from an earthquake in the region.
Continuation of this parcel tax would raise more than $500 million over 15 years, although it will not increase the amount of annual taxes paid by residents. The district has made a good case for continuing this tax and we urge voters to approve Measure B.