Editorial: Unhelpful SMCo. grand-standing on jet fuel tax
- Published Monday, August 22, 2005, in the San Francisco Examiner
Jet-fuel vote plays to the crowd
It was a counterproductive display of grandstanding last week when a
majority of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to oppose
a bill that would restore to local counties half of the $3 million in
SFO jet-fuel tax revenues Oakland captured in 2002.
Assembly bill 451 by Leland Yee, the Democratic speaker pro tempore of
the state Assembly who represents parts of San Francisco and San Mateo
County, is now the Peninsula's only realistic chance to get more money
from these taxes on fuel sales to United Airlines. And the
supervisors' 3-2 vote to oppose this legislation is unlikely to make
any make any practical impact on whether it passes.
So why would San Mateo County officials stand in the way of the best
deal their constituents can expect to get? Obviously, the majority
vote of Supervisors Jerry Hill, Adrienne Tissier and Rose Jacobs
Gibson is playing well to these supervisors' base in the county.
But we agree instead with the compromise-minded minority position of
Supervisors Rich Gordon and Mark Church. "At least we can bring
something back to the county while we continue to fight," Gordon said.
San Mateo County has filed an appeal with the state Board of
Equalization to get all the taxes, but that is considered a long shot.
Historically, law changes forced San Mateo County and San Francisco to
split SFO jet-fuel sales taxes four years before Oakland plucked all
the money for itself. That city persuaded United to log all its fuel
purchases through Oakland, in part by offering the airline a 65
percent tax rebate.
The fact is that San Mateo County already has been defeated in its
best shot at regaining 100 percent of the SFO United jet fuel taxes
via the Legislature. Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-San Mateo, lost twice
when he introduced bills in two consecutive years to bring all the
cash back to the Peninsula.
Yee also introduced bills in two consecutive years to return the 50-50
split between San Mateo County, which surrounds the airport, and San
Francisco, which owns it. Last year's version was vetoed by
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he wanted to know how ending
Oakland's rebate would affect the struggling United Airlines. A
hearing on that impact was held earlier this year in Los Angeles,
where LAX airport is also fighting to get back its jet fuel taxes from
Oakland. This time, AB 451 passed the Assembly 55-13 and Yee is
confident he has the votes to pass it in the Senate again.
The three supervisors have said their Aug. 16 vote was a matter of
making a stand on principle. But political reality tends to be about
getting only part of what you want. We wish the San Mateo County
Board had recognized a good opportunity and joined the strong regional
coalition now backing Yee's bill.