One-cent regional sales tax for transit could be on 2020 ballot

BART board hears report from advocacy groups on proposal

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% 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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11 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 25, 2019 at 10:08 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

Ya, go for it. Give people and businesses more incentive to leave. Tracy will see a shopping boom for big ticket items.

3 people like this
Posted by Two-Thirds Approval
a resident of Amador Estates
on Aug 26, 2019 at 12:55 pm

Many years ago citizens of CA passed a law requiring 2/3 vote for any new taxes. Anyone know if that is being followed for this tax increase?

2 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 26, 2019 at 3:29 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

Good question on 2/3 vote and I really don't know the answer. I believe the 2/3 vote applies to the State Assembly, but I don't think that there are enough Republicans left to make a difference at this time, and I know that it applies to Prop. 13 and they are trying to get that reduced to 55%. This is what I do know...that if they hadn't wasted all that money on the "Bullet Train to Nowhere" then there would have been plenty of money for ALL transportation projects. Think about that when they ask for your vote and your money.

2 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 26, 2019 at 7:32 pm

Brad is a registered user.

tax & tax; spend & spend; elect & elect.
Did anyone ever expect efficiency or fiscal responsibility ?

3 people like this
Posted by Eunice
a resident of Happy Valley
on Aug 27, 2019 at 5:48 am

Eunice is a registered user.

Isn't this what all the new gas taxes are for?

Like this comment
Posted by Robert S. Allen
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 27, 2019 at 10:46 am

Robert S. Allen is a registered user.

When Caltrain is electrified (like BART) and BART is extended to San Jose and Santa Clara (both funded and under way), rail transit around the Bay can be unified at low cost. A limited number of smaller projects may be better than a few big ones (like a new Bay crossing).

3 people like this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 29, 2019 at 8:48 am

Flightops is a registered user.

Ooooohhh, I see visions of that “coalition” licking their chops over projections of a possible $ 100 BILLION DOLLARS over 40 years- more promises of blue skies and rainbows in our future just give them that money!! What happened to all that tax money that should have gone to Livermore for an end of the line Bart station years ago??
O results = O new tax dollars. Anybody ever check if the Bart directors and the people running the PUSD might be one and the same??

8 people like this
Posted by Misleading
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2019 at 8:28 pm

It’s not “one cent” like the headline and article read. It’s percent. Very different. One cent - I might vote for. One percent on top of 9.75% already- no way. However, after my last attempt to teach math to the town square readers, I don’t have high hopes that anyone else here knows or cares.

5 people like this
Posted by MichaelB
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 30, 2019 at 9:27 am

MichaelB is a registered user.

"tax & tax; spend & spend; elect & elect.
Did anyone ever expect efficiency or fiscal responsibility ?"

Not in this state.

Too many people have bought into the "progressive" belief system that the government should be running everything to give you whatever you want, whenever you want it. The "fiscally responsible" thing to do in this case is to just keep lecturing the citizens what they earn/save/invest "belongs" to the community, they can "afford" to keep paying more, and it's "fair" to do so, and are "greedy" if they refuse.

5 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 30, 2019 at 12:42 pm

No no no

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