SCCo. pols, SVLG scheming to sell another SJ BART tax
- Published Friday, September 9, 2005, in the Gilroy Dispatch
Tax Push For BART
By Matt King
Politicians and transportation planners have begun crafting a public
relations strategy for a new sales tax to bring BART to Silicon
Valley, though it may prove impossible to sell voters the same
transit projects a second time.
The working strategy consists of filling a new tax measure with the
kind of broad promises made in 2000, when voters overwhelmingly
approved Measure A, which offered BART and a variety of other
transit projects, including more Caltrain service for South County.
New proposals offer virtually the same package at a greater cost to
"There's no question that this is more of an exercise in trying
to look good than actually solve the problem," Mountain View City
Councilman Greg Perry said Thursday. "If the VTA can build all
of the projects in Measure A, more power to them. It's the least
efficient transportation agency in California and doesn't deserve
another red cent."
But for all the promises of Measure A, a new tax is needed to simply
to avoid further service cuts, Santa Clara County Supervisor Don
Gage said Thursday. Measure A called for more Caltrain service to
Gilroy, but since it passed, daily service has been cut by 40
percent. And Gage, who also sits on the VTA board, suggested that
economic conditions make a new tax measure a long shot.
"Everybody and their kid brother is looking to put a sales tax
measure on the ballot and the voters aren't going to have it," Gage
said. "If they're going to do it, it better have something for
everybody or it's never going to pass. In 2000, everyone had a job
and the roads were gridlocked."
So far, the proposal receiving the most support from politicians
and the VTA is one from Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley
Leadership Group, who says that the VTA can stretch tax revenue
fund its share of the $5 billion BART project and deliver on other
Measure A projects if it operates efficiently and is the beneficiary
of a strong economy, more state funding, and a possible new tax on
Under those conditions, the SVLG plan would build BART by 2018,
complete Caltrain electrification and provide $717 million for local
streets and roads programs.
That plan was endorsed Thursday by the VTA's policy advisory
committee, which comprises officials from the county and its
15 cities, and will be taken up by the VTA board next week.
But even in prime conditions the proposal would actually decrease
Caltrain funding, and it puts the Santa Clara Valley Transportation
Authority in the red by the year 2038, when all projects would be
complete. And though its proposed quarter-cent sales tax would
expire in 2037, the plan is predicated on convincing voters to
accept another tax increase before that happens. The VTA's internal
assessment of the tax proposal says that voters won't approve it
unless they believe that it's not permanent.
Perry was one of three officials to vote against endorsing a sales
tax. He believes the only beneficiaries of a new tax are San Jose,
Milpitas and Santa Clara, the three cities where BART would run. But
South County officials agree that if there's any hope of improving
transit south of San Jose, a new tax is necessary.
Morgan Hill Mayor Dennis Kennedy voted to endorse the quarter-cent
tax measure, which the VTA projects would raise between $82 million
and $301 million annually over its 30-year life.
"I believe to deliver the projects we need to move forward," said
Kennedy, who supports BART as long as the VTA will also fund
additional Caltrain services in South County. Gilroy Mayor Al
Pinheiro did not attend the meeting.
This fall, the SVLG will conduct polls to gauge voter support for a
measure, which would appear on the November 2006 ballot. In a SVLG
poll conducted in the spring, a quarter-cent tax received about 61
percent support, short of the two-thirds vote it would need to pass.
A half-cent tax was roundly rejected.
Laura Stuchinsky, transportation director for SVLG, said the group
hasn't adopted a formal position on a tax, but Guardino has been
lobbying officials to sell the idea to their constituents.
"If the conditions are right to mount a campaign for a quarter-cent
transportation sale tax ballot measure in November 2006, we will
need the leadership and guidance of thoughtful elected officials
such as yourself," Guardino wrote in an e-mail distributed to local
politicians. "We hope you will join us in this effort."
For more information, go to
A copy of the VTA's Additional Measure A Revenue & Expenditure
Scenarios is available at
Matt King covers Santa Clara County for The Dispatch. He can be
reached at 847-7240 or mking@...