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One last hurdle for Measure B

Lawsuit is holding up Santa Clara County's 2016 sales tax funds for transportation, transit projects

More than two years later, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority may finally get to start spending the money collected under the 2016 Measure B sales tax.

Opponents of the 2016 measure are making one last-ditch effort to challenge the tax measure by appealing it to the California Supreme Court. But lawyers for the tax opponents acknowledge this is a long shot -- the state's highest court accepts only one in about 100 civil cases submitted for review.

So far, the Measure B sales tax has collected more than $275 million through a half-cent surcharge on most purchases, intended for road repairs, transit and transportation improvement projects. That money has been embargoed from being spent since last year, when Mountain View attorney Gary Wesley filed a legal challenge on behalf of Saratoga resident Cheriel Jensen.

In his legal complaint, Wesley argued that Measure B violates state law by including an allocation plan while also giving its board of directors the discretion to redirect that funding. For that reason, he alleges the sales tax should be invalidated.

In October, the lawsuit was rejected by a state appellate court. Earlier this week, Wesley announced he would try to take the case to the state Supreme Court.

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If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the appellate court decision will become final, and VTA can begin spending its collected revenues. A decision on whether to hear the case is expected within 30 days.

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One last hurdle for Measure B

Lawsuit is holding up Santa Clara County's 2016 sales tax funds for transportation, transit projects

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Dec 28, 2018, 9:38 am

More than two years later, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority may finally get to start spending the money collected under the 2016 Measure B sales tax.

Opponents of the 2016 measure are making one last-ditch effort to challenge the tax measure by appealing it to the California Supreme Court. But lawyers for the tax opponents acknowledge this is a long shot -- the state's highest court accepts only one in about 100 civil cases submitted for review.

So far, the Measure B sales tax has collected more than $275 million through a half-cent surcharge on most purchases, intended for road repairs, transit and transportation improvement projects. That money has been embargoed from being spent since last year, when Mountain View attorney Gary Wesley filed a legal challenge on behalf of Saratoga resident Cheriel Jensen.

In his legal complaint, Wesley argued that Measure B violates state law by including an allocation plan while also giving its board of directors the discretion to redirect that funding. For that reason, he alleges the sales tax should be invalidated.

In October, the lawsuit was rejected by a state appellate court. Earlier this week, Wesley announced he would try to take the case to the state Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the appellate court decision will become final, and VTA can begin spending its collected revenues. A decision on whether to hear the case is expected within 30 days.

Comments

a sane taxpayer
Rex Manor
on Dec 28, 2018 at 9:37 pm
a sane taxpayer, Rex Manor
on Dec 28, 2018 at 9:37 pm
5 people like this

Sending thanks and good wishes to Wesley Powell, a tireless advocate for the interests of the taxpayer. Perhaps I should qualify that: the minority of taxpayers who don't want their money flat-out wasted. VTA has a poor track record, and I'm not feeling optimistic about the trend.


Curious
Old Mountain View
on Dec 28, 2018 at 11:34 pm
Curious, Old Mountain View
on Dec 28, 2018 at 11:34 pm
2 people like this

I'm with you on the criticism of VTA and its spending history, which many residents have followed over the years -- and we remember,

But who is "Wesley Powell" and what does that person have to do with this story? (That name does not appear in it.)


Gary Wesley
Sylvan Park
on Dec 29, 2018 at 1:32 am
Gary Wesley, Sylvan Park
on Dec 29, 2018 at 1:32 am
10 people like this

To clarify: The Petition for Review was filed in the California Supreme Court on November 26, 2018 (Case No. S252711). Under the state Rule of Court, the Supreme Court has 60 days from filing to determine whether to grant or deny the petition (or give itself a little more time). There are 7 members of the California Supreme Court. At least four would need to vote to grant review of an issue presented previously to the lower "Court of Appeal" in a case. The issue in this case is whether the VTA will get away with writing its local special tax measure to contain none of the four "accountability" provisions required by a state law enacted in the year 2000 (codified as Government Code section 50075.1 - particularly the provision that requires that tax proceeds be used for the specific purposes stated in the measure (required by section 50075.1(b)). The Court of Appeal in San Jose (acting through a 3-judge panel in October) failed to seriously address the legal objection to the tax measure which had been raised squarely from the inception of the case in the first-level Superior Court on January 9, 2017. The promise in the measure to use the tax proceeds (estimated at $6.5 billion over 30 years) for a "program" of transportation projects across Santa Clara County is subject to a switch provision written into the measure which allows the VTA Board of Directors to vote to spend the money otherwise. That is the problem. The measure also authorizes the VTA to borrow money by selling bonds to be repaid from the estimated revenue stream. If the busy state Supreme Court does NOT grant review, the challenge ends and the VTA gets another slush fund it may or may not use for projects across the county. In the unlikely event the Supreme Court does grant review, it would decide the issue raised in about a year and, frankly, the measure would then likely be declared legally invalid - as it is.


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