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


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 percent 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 percent 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.

— Bay City News Service

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36 people like this
Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 22, 2019 at 4:25 pm

Lenny Siegel is a registered user.

The Bay Area has 75 billionaires and a number of corporations with assets in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Why is the proposal to tax the poor and the middle class?

11 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 22, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Gary is a registered user.

The billionaires and corporations got rich partly by acting to increase their own influence, income and other assets. The "leadership group' is the main lobbying arm of Silicon Valley corporations.

3 people like this
Posted by one-cent gross receipts tax instead?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2019 at 8:09 pm

VTA collects already a 0.5% sales tax, the "FASTER Bay Area" group would triple that.

FASTER out of poor/middle class wallets it seems....

The FASTER Bay Area group could get much bigger and much faster transit via a one-cent gross receipts (on corporations with over X millions in annual revenue).

Why not poll test that revenue stream instead?

118 people like this
Posted by @Lenny
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 22, 2019 at 8:49 pm

Billionaires don’t buy stuff? Seems they buy a lot. And a lot of expensive things.

When you vote for liberals, you get more taxes. Even regressive taxes. Should be clear by now.

Even your RV dwellers will be paying this tax.

Like this comment
Posted by Billionaires boys club
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2019 at 9:07 pm

Too regressive. Do it anyway. And hit the crap outta those billionaires.

The tax on their Gulfstream and yacht gets paid elsewhere.

112 people like this
Posted by O B N O X I O U S
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2019 at 9:49 pm

The Bay Area did remarkably well for decades with HALF, or less, the sales tax rates we have now -- and from a less vigorous economy (inflation is automatically adjusted-for with sales tax rates, of course). This new suggestion is O U T R A G E O U S. They need to be actively looking for ways to make current sales taxes go D O W N, not up! Why -- at the very least -- is there no state constitutional amendment yet, compelling that any new sales tax choose which existing tax programs to debit so that the total remains capped? (Just as a start! The real objective, of course, being to gradually reduce the tax rate. To something reasonable, typical -- 4%? 3%? -- some states manage fine with zero. Best practices, anyone? Hello?????)

This use-the-consumers-as-ATM nonsense would never even get past the drawing board, without the constant influx of newcomers utterly, complacently, unconscious of its past history.

136 people like this
Posted by one-cent gross receipts tax instead?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:18 am

Just noticed that the measure could also fund more express (toll) highway lanes...

Is the "Faster Bay" corporate lobby really proposing to tax the poor/middle class to build faster lanes..... mostly for the rich?

259 people like this
Posted by Bill Hough
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:39 am

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?

148 people like this
Posted by Jake O.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Aug 23, 2019 at 3:26 pm

I agree with Bill Hough, VOTE NO! We continue to get taxed on everything and can anyone see improvements? Where did the gas tax go? Why is CA average gas price $3.58 and and Texas $2.34? Newsom doesn't even want to investigate to see where our money is going.

"No new taxes!"

128 people like this
Posted by Corporate Profits
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 3:46 pm

SVLG has never met a regressive tax it didn’t think was a good idea to foist on the residents of the Bay Area. Carl Guardino is nothing more than a lobbyist for big tech facilitating the protection/growth of corporate profits — often at the expense of our communities and residents.

Remember who Carl Guardino represents whenever you see the name, Silicon Valley Leadership Group — corporate profits — at the expense of residents affordability & quality of life.

No more regressive taxes cloaked as “good for the region”...over and over again. Go to your corporate overlords Carl, and have them repatriate some of the hundreds of billions in profits they’ve got stashed offshore — that could probably help without pinching the common folk barely making it here.

10 people like this
Posted by How about a wealth tax?
a resident of Rex Manor
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:38 pm

A wealth tax is like a property tax only on all assets. This is what elizabeth warren is proposing - we should do the same thing here.

Then we will find out how much the SVLG really want to fix the transportation system.

68 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Tax the biggest corporation that have the biggest impact on traffic in the bay area.

67 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 25, 2019 at 8:34 pm

Lets make sure we collect all the taxes we already have on the books. Why do we have to wait to collect e-car use tax on the road? Are the free white bus rides taxed? I see a 100 of them parked in empty lots They compete / take away VTA dollars. How about all those free lunches I hear workers get? Are the uncollected tax ruining the local economy and small businesses down the road?

4 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 27, 2019 at 8:25 pm

This idea stinks out loud. Our sales taxes are already sky-high.

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

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